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Sophomore center Sydney Stipanovich led the Red and Blue past Dartmouth on Friday night.

It’s hard to have a freshman season better than Sydney Stipanovich’s last year.

There were individual awards (a long list of them), statistical milestones and, best of all, an Ivy League title.

“She came into a good situation [last year] with experienced kids above her. She was the missing piece for that group,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “And now her fit needs to be a little bit bigger.”

From the start of last season, it was apparent that Stipanovich would have a lasting effect on the program. Early on, the freshman only saw minutes off the bench, primarily due to the pair of juniors — Katy Allen and Kara Bonenberger — entrenched in the starting roles.

As the season progressed, it became more and more evident to the coaching staff that Stipanovich needed an increased role.

“She didn’t sneak up on us. She’s really good,” McLaughlin said of Stipanovich’s changing role throughout the season. “We had to get her minutes increased and I couldn’t do it unless I started her.”

The 6-foot-3 center was dominant throughout the season, putting up 12.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game. Stipanovich set the program record for blocks in a season with 99 — 27 more than the next best season by a Penn player.

Yet while Stipanovich put together a strong season, she would be the first to admit that it was far from perfect.

“I can improve in a lot of spots. This offseason I worked on getting my shot off quicker and post-up moves,” Stipanovich said. “Also just quickness and agility, that’s something that I’m always working towards.”

Earlier in the offseason the sophomore missed some practice time and the team’s Red and Blue scrimmage with a back injury, but Stipanovich seems optimistic about her ability to play throughout the season with some physical therapy.

And now as the team’s top returning scorer and arguably best player, Stipanovich will be expected to help lead this team throughout the season.

While it may not be quite as large a transition in terms of actual play on the court — Stipanovich was seeing large minutes by the end of the last year – the sophomore will certainly shoulder more of the offensive burden.

“I think having a year under my belt and that experience will really help a lot,” Stipanovich said.

“Having those tough games like the Texas game at the end of the year, each game I learned and progressed a bit more.”

The Quakers will open the season with an even tougher game against a Tennessee squad that is ranked No. 4 in the preseason polls. With that game and a slate of other tough nonconference matches looming, Stipanovich will have plenty of opportunities to continue to progress.

The sophomore spent most of her offseason honing her offensive skills, yet it was her strong defense that made her such a force in Ivy League play. The reigning Ivy League defensive player of the year will look to continue to make her presence felt throughout the season.

Among Stipanovich’s goals for the upcoming season are improving her defensive positioning and working on becoming a better defensive backbone for the team. A large part of that improvement will be continuing to grow as a defensive leader.

“She’s just going to lead because of who she is. It’s very clear that she has tremendous talent,” McLaughlin said. “She’s a player people are going to follow anyway.”

Will Stipanovich be ready to take on a larger role after a stellar freshman year? For McLaughlin, the answer is simple.

“I think she’s ready. Her personality is going to allow her not to be fazed.”

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