Penn can set a new team mark of six straight wins by taking two up north. The Penn women's basketball team hopes that the cold weather it encounters this weekend will not cool off its hot play of the last two weeks. The Quakers try to continue their tremendous play as they travel north to face Dartmouth tonight and Harvard tomorrow. Penn has won four in a row, equaling last season's longest winning streak. "We're definitely more confident than we've been all year," Penn coach Julie Soriero said. "It's nice to win at home and on the road." The Quakers (7-10, 3-2 Ivy League) started their winning streak on the road against Bucknell and continued their string with three more wins at the Palestra over Army, Cornell and Columbia. Despite the string of victories, the team knows that this weekend's games will be challenging. "Harvard and Dartmouth are a lot better than Cornell and Columbia," sophomore forward Diana Caramanico said. Unlike last weekend's opponents, both Harvard (6-10, 3-2) and Dartmouth (11-6, 4-1) have winning records in the Ivy League. In addition, both opponents have individuals at the top of statistical categories. The Crimson's Laela Sturdy leads the conference in field goal percentage, hitting at a .576 clip, while Dartmouth's Courtney Banghart is fourth in the league in scoring and second in three-point shooting, draining 40.6 percent of her shots. Because of the tough opponents, Penn knows it has to concentrate on its own play. "We're focusing on what we need to do," senior co-captain Sue Van Stone said. "We think that if we take care of business on our end, we can beat both teams." One area where the Quakers are concerned with taking care of business is in their defensive intensity. "We have to be more crisp on defense," Caramanico said. "We have to box out on every play, come with help guarding at the right times with the right person and basically play with the principles we've been taught all year." The Red and Blue have looked at their opponents' previous games and believe that a solid defensive game will lead to a victory. "In Harvard's loss to Yale, they turned the ball over 25 times, and Yale had 15 steals," Soriero said. "Yale put a really good defensive effort into the game, so I think if we play great defense and rebound, we put ourselves in a good position." This season's Harvard team is very different from last year's. The Crimson, two-time defending Ivy champions, lost several key players, including starting point guard Megan Basil and Allison Feaster -- Harvard's all-time leading scorer -- who now plays for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks. Penn hopes to take advantage of the Crimson's youth and inexperience. After leaving Cambridge, Mass., the Quakers face what could be a hostile environment in Hanover, N.H. Penn players believe that if they can stop the Big Green on offense, however, the crowd will be less of a factor. To add to the home-court advantage, Dartmouth is on a roll, winning nine of its last 10 games. Last year Penn and Dartmouth split their season series, with both teams winning at home. "Dartmouth has some momentum, so I think we need to concentrate on our defense and hope we can generate offense off of our defense," Soriero said. To aid this intensity, practices this week have consisted of an emphasis on both effort and focus. "We've been doing drills to try to read their defense, including breaking the press," co-captain Mandy West said. The Quakers are concentrating on their defensive play because offensively they have been unstoppable. Penn boasts the top two scorers in the conference in Caramanico and West. Caramanico is averaging 20.7 points a game while West is scoring 19.8 a game. West was also named Ivy League Player of the Week after scoring 31, 28 and 15 points in the Quakers' last three victories. "I don't see any reason why I should drop my level of play," West said. "The amount I score depends on how I'm guarded, but if I'm double and triple teamed, I hope to get it to the people that are scoring." If the Quakers can keep up the scoring and focus on defense, they should be able to heat up those cold New England nights and extend their winning streak to six.Comments powered by Disqus
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