Women's basketball begins season with St. Francis
Terriers awaits in season opener, but Penn focuses on internal growth
November 11, 2011, 12:22 am·
Maanvi Singh | DP
After posting a two-win 2009-10 season Penn women’s basketball was just a blip on the opposition’s radar last year.
However, after a record-setting campaign that saw the team post the biggest turnaround in program history, the Red and Blue have definitely caught the attention of teams in the Ancient Eight and elsewhere.
This season, the Quakers aim to pick up where they left off in March, and that quest begins Sunday at the Palestra against St. Francis. The Red and Blue have never lost to the Terriers in five matchups.
Last December, the Quakers went into New York in their first game after Christmas and steamrolled the Terriers, 66-38, for their largest margin of victory of the season.
Reigning Ivy League scoring champion and Rookie of the Year Alyssa Baron went off for a then-season high 23 points coupled with three assists and two steals.
The sophomore guard, who averaged 16.6 points as a freshman, may cause even more problems for the Terriers after to a productive offseason.
Starting forward and returning captain Jess Knapp also figures to have her say in the outcome. The senior — who coach Mike McLaughlin said is “more determined than ever” this year — posted seven points, six rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes against the Terriers last year. It was her trademark stifling defense, however, that helped hold St. Francis to an abysmal 26-percent shooting percentage.
The Quakers will also be infused by a top-notch freshman class led by Renee Busch, a 5’9” forward from Weybridge, Surrey, England. She has been successful at the national level for the British U-20 National Team, and McLaughlin has already said that she will probably start.
“She’s very composed and mature on the court. She’s got a great college body, is in tremendous shape and is definitely competitive,” he added. “She’s college-ready and has already been challenged. Nothing’s fazed her up to this point.”
St. Francis will also be bringing in a heavy freshmen crop, but McLaughlin isn’t too concerned about personnel.
“I just have to make sure our girls are comfortable with what we, as a team, are about, and less about what St. Francis will do,” he said. “We’ll prepare for them with what they’ve done in the past.”
And although the Ivy slate doesn’t start until January, the season’s test begins now.
Knapp, the vet of this otherwise youthful bunch, understands that.
“It’ll come out to who wants it more, and I feel like this season, with the determined team that we have, if it ever just comes down to who wants it more, we’ll be in good shape.”