Watching Penn women's club basketball coach Karim Sadak pace the sidelines at the Palestra Saturday, you never would have guessed his team held a 30-point edge over the competition. Penn was dominant, scoring with ease and sending the visiting Princeton club into fits with a full-court press. But there was Sadak, sleeves rolled up, crouching, moving, kneading his hands, shouting words of encouragement. It was a weekend to celebrate, as the women's club team got a rare opportunity to play a pair of games in the vaunted Palestra. And the team -- and coach -- were not about to let it all slip by without making the most of the opportunity. "This was awesome, that we got to play at the Palestra for the weekend,"said sophomore Danielle Kudla, who scored 16 points in a 75-47 win over Princeton. "That was the biggest thing of our season." The club -- whose players pay fees to play, wash their own uniforms, and squeeze in independent workouts to supplement the one or two weekly blocks of gym time Penn allots them -- boasts 30 members. A travel squad of 12 to 15 players competes in the East Coast Women's Club Basketball League in the fall. This past season, Penn went 12-4 before being narrowly upset by the North Carolina State club in the four-seed vs. five-seed game of the conference tournament. During the spring, Penn plays a series of exhibitions against other club teams, not to mention junior colleges, JV squads and even the occasional DivisionIIIprogram. OnFriday, the Quakers overcame first-time Palestra jitters to edge Moravian College's JV squad, 39-27. The team, founded in 1997-98 by then-sophomore Laura Mannering, has been coached since last fall by Sadak. Sadak, a 2000 Penn Engineering grad who is currently at work on a master's degree, is a basketball junkie and diehard Penn hoops fan. Before the first game at the Palestra, he read his team a passage about the gym from JohnFeinstein's recent book The Last Amateurs. "Our coach, he's such a sports fanatic," said senior captain Yvonne Chen, who scored 10 points against Princeton. "[The passage] said that the Palestra, over all the facilities anywhere, was the best place to play. And it just got us pumped up, and we were really excited to come out here." And at halftime againstPrinceton, with Penn leading 38-13, Sadak fretted about the "Heartbreak at the Palestra" --warning his team about the Penn men's varsity team's 50-49 loss to Princeton two years ago. In that game, the Quakers held a 40-13 edge with 15 minutes to play. The club team responded after the break, though, pushing the lead to 50-16 with 14 minutes left and delighting the 125 or so in attendance (not to mention the four members of the Penn Band playing behind the basket). The Penn club played a polished brand of basketball, and though they let up on their relentless press, the Quakers kept the heat on at the offensive end. With nine minutes left, sophomore Megan McGill drained a jumper from the left corner to make it 62-24. Princeton responded with eight straight points, but then Kudla dove under the hoop to snare an offensive rebound heading out of bounds, heaving it over her right shoulder. She then raced back behind the arc, where she drained her fourth three-pointer of the game, making it 65-32 and asserting Penn's dominance. After the game, a beaming Sadak praised the players' hard work this season and wished he could thank every one of the fans who turned out to the Palestra. "These girls come out early, they stay late at practice, and to get a chance to play [at the Palestra] makes all that worth it," Sadak said. "I know there are a ton of other volunteer opportunities at Penn or paying jobs I could have gotten instead, but I wouldn't trade this coaching opportunity for anything in the world, no matter how much my school work or social life suffers." Sarah Scott, the club president, missed the game with an injury. Scott, Chen and Jill Zeldin are the lone seniors on the underclassman-heavy travel squad. Chen and Kudla scored in double digits against Princeton, as did Kristen Sheridan (12 points), and McGill and Veronica de la Rosa had 10 apiece. But the women's club team is about more than statistics. "Ilove it," said sophomore Jaclyn Kvaternik, noting that the club blends hard work and fun. "It's not the commitment that a varsity sport is, for obvious reasons, but we devote a few hours a week to it, and we travel almost every weekend to tournaments, so it's a pretty big commitment." Kvaternik, who played high school basketball inLas Vegas, praised her coach and the experience of playing alike: "Karim is a great coach. He inspires us, he gets us all pumped up and he works us hard, but it's worth it. It's a lot of fun."Comments powered by Disqus
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