Coach Mike McLaughlin hopes that yet another difficult non-conference schedule will help prepare his team for its Ivy League title defense.

Credit: Joshua Ng

After their first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly a decade, Penn Women’s basketball has its sights set on another big game.

In the upcoming 2014-2015 season, the Quakers will open on the road in Knoxville, TN on Nov. 14 as they visit the University of Tennessee to face the Lady Volunteers in the first ever meeting between the teams.

“To play in a very historical venue, against a team that’s won the national championship many times and a program that draws a great crowd, it’s a good experience for our players,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “It’s an opportunity to play against the best and something that they’ll remember for a very long time.”

Tennessee has a historically excellent women’s basketball program and has made it into each of the 33 NCAA Tournaments, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in all but one.

Last season, Tennessee was the top seed in Penn’s region of the bracket, though they ultimately lost to Final Four-bound Maryland in the Sweet Sixteen.

While this may be the first meeting between the schools, it certainly won’t be the first high profile team on Penn’s schedule in recent years.

The Quakers took on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame early last season at the Palestra, falling in a tough 54-76 loss.

The tough non-conference schedule has been a staple of Penn women’s basketball and a key ingredient for late season success, according to McLaughlin.

“It can only help when you play against very good competition,” McLaughlin said. “It prepares you playing against different styles. Each league plays a different style of basketball, it’s good to see it and to be able to adapt to it and get some on-court experience.”

The past season was a historically notable one for the Quakers as they also tallied their first ever win against an ACC opponent with a late road victory against Miami, as well as two wins against the Big Five.

The remainder of Penn’s schedule will be released later in the summer, though according to Mike McLaughlin it will be fairly similar to years past.

“We’re going to play the five Philadelphia schools, the Big Five and Drexel. We’ll play two Patriot League schools. We’ll have Lafayette and we’ll be playing at Navy,” McLaughlin said. “It’ll be very challenging, but it’ll be exciting for our team. Hopefully it prepares us for Ivy play.”

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