The Quakers need wins this weekend when they travel to Yale and Brown. Women's basketball in the Ivy League has become like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates over the last couple of weeks -- a team never knows what it's going to get. Just ask first-place Dartmouth, whose surprising 68-57 loss to Princeton last Saturday shrank the Big Green's lead to just one game ahead of Harvard and Penn, which are tied for second. Or talk with the Crimson themselves, or with Columbia and Cornell, which have all fallen victim to the last-place team in the Ancient Eight -- surging Brown -- in the past two weekends. These upsets, which have shaken up some of the top teams in the league, have Penn coach Kelly Greenberg cautious, especially as her title-seeking squad travels to Brown (8-18, 3-9 Ivy League) today for the first game in the Quakers' (17-8, 8-3) final road swing of the season. "This is the scariest type of game for a coach," Greenberg said. "I'd rather play a Dartmouth than a Brown any day, because emotionally your team understands that [Dartmouth's] the team you have to beat. With [Brown's] record, no one gets up for them, and that's the type of team that can beat you." Yale coach Amy Backus, whose Elis (10-15, 6-6) will host the Quakers in Penn's second game on the road, agrees that the Ivy League can be a very dangerous place if a team isn't fully into the game. "That's the nature of the beast in the Ivy League," Backus said. "Anybody on any given night can knock a team off. You can never let up." Unfortunately for Penn, letting up has been an occasional problem for the Red and Blue, who have found that a lack of emotional preparation against any team can spell disaster. Early last month, the Quakers came out flat against Brown in the teams' first meeting and found themselves down an unsettling 27-23 at halftime. But after a reality check in the locker room, Penn stormed back to win the game by 17 points. After the scare, the Quakers thought the lesson in mental readiness had been learned. Two weeks later, however, it became apparent that the wake-up call from the Bears wasn't quite loud enough, as the Quakers were handed a 70-67 loss by a mediocre Columbia squad in what could be Penn's worst showing of the season. With just one game remaining after this weekend, the Quakers know they have no more time to catch up in the title race if they fall to another Ivy team, whether that team is a league leader or a bottom dweller. But the Red and Blue are confident that being mentally ready for these remaining, lower-ranked teams will not be a problem. "I don't think there's going to be a letdown," Penn tri-captain Erin Ladley said. "We know that Yale and Brown are going to come out strong, and we just need to be prepared for that. We know that we have a chance [for a first-ever Ivy title], and we don't want to spoil it." Against both Brown and Yale this weekend, being prepared physically will be just as important as being ready mentally. The Bears were slowed with injuries to key guards in February, but with everyone now healthy for tonight, Brown's running game and scoring ability will be greatly increased. "They're putting up bigger numbers; they're scoring a lot more; and obviously they've won three of their last four games. So they're coming in with a lot of confidence," Greenberg said. To quell the Bears' offensive confidence, Penn will bring out its vaunted full-court press, which was instrumental in the Quakers' 79-66 victory over Harvard last weekend and played a big part in their last win over Brown. "When we ran [the press] in the second half of the Brown game, we took control," Ladley said. "We just have to come out and do that again." The Quakers will use the same high-pressure defense against the taller, slower Elis, but rebounding will be key in determining Saturday's winner. Yale used its skills in the paint to keep close to the Quakers in February, with the Elis' high offensive rebounding total giving them second-chance shots as well as taking away Penn's transition offense. Yale's Meg Simpson, who averages 7.0 rebounds per game, will try to shut down Penn's transition game on the boards again tonight, but will find it a tough task against Penn's leading rebounders Diana Caramanico (12.0 rebounds per game) and Julie Epton (5.8). Both games are going to be a test of the Quakers' physical and mental focus against two lesser-skilled teams. "It all comes down to what team is going to be tougher and what team makes the smarter plays," Greenberg said. "For us to go in thinking that these two games will be easy would be the craziest thing ever."Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.