Huge milestones do not come easily.
Following a devastating loss to Saint Joseph’s last night, Penn women’s basketball is looking forward to a strong winter surge in preparation for a monumental game in January.
After a very tight game, the Quakers (5-2) had their five game win streak snapped when the Hawks hit a go-ahead basket in the final minute and won the game 50-46.
“We came up a little short,” head coach Mike McLaughlin said. “It was really a heartbreaking loss.”
It was heartbreaking, as McLaughlin described it, for several reasons. One reason that certainly must have been hanging in the coach’s mind was that it would have been his 500th career win.
The other milestone that slipped out reach last night was what would have been the best start to a season in the program’s history.
While the Quakers will have to wait until next season for another chance at smashing that record, McLaughlin will be pleased he has another go at the 500-win mark in just ten days against a local rival.
The Red and Blue’s next matchup is against next-door neighbor Drexel. This game will take place in the Palestra the day after finals end.
Spirits will be high in anticipation of a milestone victory against the struggling Dragons (3-4), but McLaughlin is wary of a banana peel and does not want his team to slip.
“We’re going into finals,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll practice and stay sharp, but the players need to concentrate on their studies. We’ll be prepared, but we’ve got to be cognisant of other people’s priorities.”
After this game, the majority of the Penn student body will be at home curling up into Snuggies and watching holiday movies, but the team will be approaching a flurry of important games.
Only a couple days after facing Drexel, the squad will host Wagner on the 21st.
The game against the Seahawks (1-5) should, by all accounts, be a cakewalk. But after that warmup game against Wagner, the Quakers will embark on the trip of a lifetime.
The team will flee the frozen fields of Philly after Christmas and take haven in the heat of Honolulu, Hawaii, for the week.
They will encounter two opponents. On New Year’s Eve, Penn will face BYU-Hawaii. A few days later, the team will go head to head with Hawaii.
While the two games in the Pacific are important for the team’s momentum heading into second semester, coach McLaughlin sees many other aspects of the trip worth noting.
“It’s a tremendous learning experience for them and a great environment,” McLaughlin said. “It isn’t too often that anyone gets the chance to travel across the country.
“In some way we can develop as a program. The players will look back on their careers at Penn and value what the athletic department has done for them to help them have a great experience.”
After Red and Blue return to campus, they will face undoubtedly their biggest test yet. Just a few days before the second semester begins, Penn will tip off Ivy League play at home against archrival Princeton.
If the team wants to win the Ivy League this season, it will have to start strong by beating its biggest and only contender in the Tigers (7-1).
“They’re really solid, as they always are,” McLaughlin said of Princeton. “In order for us to have the chance to beat them, we’re going to have to be able to score with them.”
For the next month, though, the Quakers will seek to build up momentum for this monumental clash.
“Over the next month, hopefully we’ll improve,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll have our work cut out for us. It’s gonna be a great home game, it’s at the Palestra, and it’s something that the coaches have already started working on.
“It’s still a ways away, so there’s a lot growth this team should have by then.”
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