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Womens Basketball vs. La Salle Credit: Thomas Munson , Thomas Munson

Penn women’s basketball will be staying home in Philadelphia for the holidays with four games in Philadelphia prior to playing at Princeton on Jan. 10.

Penn’s 65-51 victory over Saint Joseph’s snapped a two-game skid for the Red and Blue, who fell to Lafayette and Hampton after Thanksgiving. Now, the Quakers (4-3) will take a break for final exams and play five games before spring semester classes start on Jan. 14, including a Jan. 10 road tilt at Princeton which opens Penn’s Ivy season.

While coach Mike McLaughlin maintains the Quakers’ goal is to ready themselves for Princeton and Ivy play, he emphasized using the break to make some of his younger players more comfortable on the floor.

“We have two young point guards [in Anna Ross and Beth Brzozowski] that are freshmen and Melanie Lockett’s a sophomore that didn’t play a whole lot last year,” McLaughlin said. “So we’re trying to get them playing time and get them used to playing hard for 40 minutes at the college level.

“It is a transition for everyone and they’re doing a really good job, but they’re just going to need more minutes under their belt.”

Also on the to-do list for McLaughlin is getting sophomore center Syndey Stipanovich and senior forward Kara Bonenberger going. Both have seen their scoring numbers drop this season, with Stipanovich averaging 8.8 points per game (12.0 in 2013-2014) and Bonenberger scoring just 5.8 points per contest (10.9 in 2013-2014).

“Sydney’s had a tough start, she’s being guarded heavily and doubled,” McLaughlin said. “I’d like to see her start to get on a roll, because we’re certainly going to need her when we get to Ivy play to have a huge Ivy season. I’d like to see her and Kara get in that roll they were in last year.”

With Penn’s win over Saint Joseph’s, the team avoided beginning its 11-day hiatus on a three-game losing streak. Senior Renee Busch believes the losses to Lafayette and Hampton ignited a spark under the Quakers.

“I think we’re definitely using [the losses] as learning points, just trying to come together as team,” Busch said. “We always talk about adversity, so we just had a little bit, and we’ve come through these last few practices with a lot more energy, a lot more togetherness than we’ve had before.”

Busch also points to the players staying on campus over break as a team-building endeavor.

“There’s no one around, so we hang out with each other and practice,” Busch said. “There’s no school, no exams, just basketball. It’s a great time.”

Penn’s first game back from exams is at Drexel on Dec. 20. From there, the team will have the option to travel home for the holidays. After the players return, the Red and Blue will hold a mini-homestand at the Palestra, with contests against UMBC on Dec. 29, King’s College on Dec. 31 and Temple on Jan. 5. All four aforementioned teams are within two games of .500 and have combined record of 14-14.

Ultimately, the Red and Blue will travel to Princeton on Jan. 10 to open the Ivy slate. The Tigers (8-0) are undefeated in their nonconference play and have won seven of their eight games by double digits. Last season, the Quakers ran a similar schedule over winter break, playing four teams and then Princeton.

The Red and Blue ended up defeating the first four nonconference opponents before falling to Princeton, 84-53, one of just two losses in their Ivy championship season.

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