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Last year, Penn women’s basketball surprised opponents on the way to an 18-13 record. This year, the Red and Blue won’t be sneaking up on anyone.

On Saturday, one of the upstart programs in the Ivy League will return to the court as the Quakers take on the St. Francis (NY) Terriers to tip off the season.

Penn brings back an almost identical squad from last year’s third-place Ivy team to take on the Terriers, who have 0-8 overall record against Penn, including last year’s dramatic contest where the Red and Blue edged out St. Francis, 61-60.

Last year, Penn stumbled out of the gate, losing its first three games, and had trouble finding consistency. This year’s Quakers have a few changes in personnel to begin with, including the one-month loss of sophomore Keiera Ray.

But Penn’s other eight letterwinners will hold nothing back against in the home opener to get their season kick-started. Penn’s experience on the floor will certainly be one of their biggest x-factors moving forward.

“It should be huge. It’s the first time since I’ve been there that we have a balance. Hopefully that will benefit [us],” fifth-year head coach Mike McLaughlin said. “Any team at any time can come in beat people at this level. I hope that that experience carries over not from just the first day but through the whole season.”

More importantly, McLaughlin will need to contain the excitement of Penn’s new additions, something the coach doesn’t view as a bad quality, but something to be watched all the same.

“You know, the excitement is what you expect. I’ll just remind them they’ve prepared just as hard as anyone … We think we’re prepared, we think we are in the best shape at this point,” McLaughlin said.

“The excitement is gonna be there, and that’s what it’s about. It’s why you play this sport.”

If this Saturday’s game is anything like the matchup from last year, it should be plenty entertaining for the fans in attendance on Homecoming Weekend.

Last year, the Red and Blue overcame their largest deficit in school history, capped off by then-junior Alyssa Baron’s layup with 6.4 seconds left. The Quakers went on a remarkable 22-3 run, scoring the final 15 points to notch a tough road win.

“They outplayed us for the first 33 minutes of the game. They controlled the pace, the tempo. We were really fortunate enough to make plays at the end,” McLaughlin said. “The start of this is gonna be really important for us going forward.”

With St. Francis coming into the Palestra, the Red and Blue will still be working out the kinks in their offense. But while Penn may not be firing on all cylinders against the Terriers, as the season progresses, more schemes, sets and plays will make their way into the gameplan.

“I think it is more important they are comfortable with what we have. This is all about them. It’s not how many plays, sets, I can put in,” McLaughlin said. “If they are comfortable then I’ll put more stuff in. We will add as we go. It’s not a rush to get it in.”

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