The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Jessica Allen started seven of the Red and Blue's 28 games last season. (Lauren Hittner/DP File Photo)

For the past quarter of a century, the Penn women's basketball team has searched in vain for Ivy League supremacy. Since Ancient Eight play began in the 1974-75 season, the Quakers have had some good teams, some solid players, some well-proven coaches. But there has been one simple thing that has eluded their grasp. One missing element that stands above all the rest. Twenty-five years. Zero Ivy League titles. In the 26th season of Ivy League competition, however, the basketball prognosticators believe that this trend may come to an end. The local media and the league's sports information offices have forecasted the Quakers to finish first in the Ancient Eight, slightly ahead of two-time defending league champion Dartmouth. The Quakers received 114 votes, while the Big Green tallied 110. Harvard finished in third place with 104 votes, followed by Yale, Brown, Cornell, Columbia and Princeton. Penn coach Kelly Greenberg was a bit surprised by the pick, but that doesn't mean that she's not confident in her team. "Our No. 1 goal is to win the Ivy League," the second-year coach remarked. "Anything short of that would be a disappointment. The Ivy League is really what it's all about." In her first season at the helm of the Red and Blue last year, Greenberg nearly led the Quakers to their first-ever Ivy League title. The Quakers looked like worldbeaters in cruising to a 6-0 start in league play. But a tough road loss to Dartmouth on February 12 began a stretch in which Penn lost five of its final eight league games and fell out of contention for the championship. Penn's 18-10 overall record was its best ever, and a 9-5 Ivy mark put the Quakers in second place behind Dartmouth in the league. And as disappointed as Greenberg was with the near miss at a ring, she still gives credit where credit is due. "We didn't lose it -- they won it," Greenberg said of Dartmouth's championship. "They were tougher than us." But for the Quakers, last year is now a distant memory. They believe that the 2000-2001 season will be the season in which they finally break through to the top of their league. They have plenty of reason to think so. The Quakers return arguably the greatest player in Penn history in senior co-captain Diana Caramanico. The honorable mention All-American and two-time Ivy League Player of the Year shattered record after record last year, most notably breaking Penn's career scoring mark. In her three-year tenure at Penn, the 6'2" forward has averaged 22.6 points and 11.6 rebounds. Yet she is far from finished. Records are nice, honors acceptable. But in her senior campaign, Caramanico wants, more than anything, to lead her team to an Ivy League title. "To win the Ivy League is my all-time No. 1 goal, no matter what," Caramanico said. She will be joined by junior Julie Epton and senior Jessica Allen in what makes up a very formidable frontcourt. Last season, Epton played her way into a starting role and notched 9.7 points per game, while pulling down 5.8 rebounds, second on the team only to Caramanico. Allen, a 6'3" center, hopes to rebound from a season in which she struggled with injuries and played 12.4 minutes per game, scoring 2.4 and pulling down 2.9 boards per contest. The Quakers backcourt suffered a major blow with the loss of Mandy West to graduation this past summer. The point guard and tri-captain averaged 20 points and 4.3 assists per game last season. West will certainly be missed, but Penn hopes to overcome the loss. "She's a big loss, but now we have a new personality and different leaders," Greenberg said. The void left by West will likely be filled by sophomore point guard Tara Twomey, who was the first player off the bench for the Red and Blue last season. Twomey dished out 88 assists on the season, and played in all 28 games, sometimes as West's backup, at times lining up at the point with West as the shooting guard. "Playing with Mandy for a year was great," Twomey said. "It definitely made me a better player for this year." Twomey will not be alone in the backcourt. Joining the 5'4" guard are two seasoned veterans in sophomore Jen Jones and senior co-captain Erin Ladley, both of whom started every game for the Quakers last season. Ladley averaged 9.1 points and 3.2 assists per game last season, while Jones recorded 5.9 points per contest. The Quakers' guard-heavy roster also includes seniors Claire Cavanaugh and Liz Alexander, and highly touted freshman Jewel Clark. With their abundance of guards, the Quakers will look to run the floor and put a lot of defensive pressure on their opponents. "We're working on defense a lot this year -- full-court pressure as well as half-court," Twomey said. "We want to talk to the other team and force a lot of turnovers." The Red and Blue kick off their season on Saturday when they travel to Hawk Hill to square off against Big 5 rival St. Joseph's. The Quakers will then participate in the Northwestern Tournament on the first two days of December before rounding out their Big 5 schedule with games against La Salle, Temple and Villanova on December 7, 9 and 12, respectively. "In the Big 5, every game is tough," Greenberg said. "Temple has a new coach in Dawn Staley, which is really going to help them a lot. La Salle is returning all of their starters. Villanova is returning all but one.... There is not an easy game in the Big 5." Nevertheless, the games will be a good preparation for Penn's Ivy League schedule, which begins on January 12-13 with a New York road trip to Columbia and Cornell and peaks with a huge home weekend against top league competitors, Harvard and Dartmouth on February 9-10. But, for now, Penn is simply focusing on St. Joe's and the start of the new season. When the Quakers take the floor on Saturday, a season of promise and anticipation will begin -- a season that they hope will end in their first-ever Ivy League championship.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.