Time to hit the road.
Having just finished a seven-game stretch at home which saw the Quakers win five and lose two to Big 5 teams Villanova and Temple, Penn women’s basketball will leave the comfort of the Palestra for its first away competition in a month.
It was a very productive home stay for the Red and Blue (12-6, 5-0 Ivy), who had yet to record a win at the Palestra until they topped Yale on January 13.
The defending Ivy champions will now head to New York this weekend to take on the Ancient Eight duo of Columbia and Cornell.
“This is our first back-to-back challenge on the road,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I’m anxious to see because you have to be really strong mentally on the road. I’m excited because I think this team is mature enough to understand.”
With a team as in form as Penn, it’s hard to imagine the upcoming matchups going any differently from any of the team’s previous Ivy contests. After five league games played, the undefeated Quakers sit comfortably atop the Ancient Eight with Harvard and Brown tied for second at 4-2.
Columbia (12-7, 2-4) and Cornell (12-7, 3-3) remain the only two Ivy teams the Red and Blue have yet to face, marking the league’s halfway point in the countdown towards the inaugural Ivy League Tournament.
After last weekend’s 20-point victory over Harvard and 30-point drubbing of Dartmouth, Penn will be confident as the team travels to face the Lions on Friday before visiting the Big Red on Saturday.
Juniors Michelle Nwokedi and Anna Ross have been unstoppable in recent games. Nwokedi recently earned the fifth Ivy Player of the Week honor of her career and second of the season, while Ross was named the Penn Athletics Weekend MVP (by us) for her part in ending the Crimson’s 16-game win streak.
“It’s just another weekend with two very tough teams,” Nwokedi added. “We just have to come out like we’ve been playing.”
“I’m looking forward to just staying aggressive,” Ross added. “[I’m] looking to attack and create for everyone for Michelle down low and our three-point shooters Beth [Brzozowski] and Kasey [Chambers].”
Being on the road might bring the biggest shake-up to the Quakers’ dominant play. A four-plus hour drive from Columbia to Cornell after Friday night’s game will see the team arrive in Ithaca well past midnight.
“Getting into the hotel at 2:00 AM will be new to some people, but there are no excuses, we just have to be able to be good at dealing with it,” McLaughlin said.
“We’ve had a tough history with Cornell,” Ross added. “It’s kind of a revenge game, but it’s also just us playing the way we have been playing. Right now, we’re focusing on us, and later this week we’ll focus on them.”
It’s been a long season for the Quakers so far, and with a month still left before the league tournament, it’s important that the team can find a way to keep its momentum without falling into predictable patterns.
“I think what’s out there now is a lot of film on each team,” McLaughlin said. “Both teams obviously will see what we do, we know what they do, so there is some tweaking that goes on at this point.”
But for now it seems safe to say that the more film Columbia and Cornell watch, the worse they will be feeling when the Quakers come to town.
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