When the final buzzer sounded at the Palestra after Penn women’s basketball’s loss to Temple, it wasn’t just the end of a season. It was the end of the careers of one of the most successful classes in program history.
Where to even start?
A program-best 74 wins. The first Big 5 title in program history. Penn’s first three postseason wins and a strong showing against Texas in the NCAA Tournament.
And more important than any number, award or title, the Class of 2015 continued to exemplify the change that has brought this program from Ivy League cellar-dweller to title contender.
When coach Mike McLaughlin took over the program in 2009, Penn was on the verge of bottoming out. In his first season, the Quakers did bottom out, finishing 2-26 and 1-13 in the league.
Since then, it’s been consistent improvement. 2014-15 is the first season where the Quakers haven’t improved their overall record, though no one is complaining about the end result of the program’s third 20-win season.
While the men’s team has a storied past overflowing with Ivy League titles and NCAA Tournament appearances, the women’s team has never had quite the same success.
Yet times have changed (for both programs), and McLaughlin has his team in the midst of a historic stretch.
It’s easy to argue that 2014 graduate Alyssa Baron is the most influential player in the McLaughlin era. Baron joined the program as the star of McLaughlin’s first recruiting class.
She finished her freshman season as Ivy League Rookie of the Year and her senior season as Ivy League Player of the Year and the best player on the Ivy League championship squad. If any one player serves as the figurehead of the team’s change, it’s Baron.
But if you consider a single class that demonstrates the hard-nosed, defensive basketball that McLaughlin has instilled in his teams, these seniors fit the bill.
Each one brought their own style of play to the floor and served integral roles on the team over the past four years. As the team’s captains this season, they guided a young squad — Penn routinely started three underclassmen — to the postseason for the third straight season.
Forward Kara Bonenberger may have ended her career on the bench nursing a knee injury, but on the court she was the class’ most prolific scorer, finishing her career 14th on Penn’s all-time scoring list. The Walnutport, Pa., native was a two-time second-team All-Ivy honoree and was named Big 5 Rookie of the Year as a freshman.
With the ability to stretch the floor as a forward with a three-point shot, Katy Allen brought an entirely different style of play. The senior started 63 career games while impacting the game on both sides of the floor.
The Red and Blue’s second-leading scorer this season — guard Kathleen Roche — finished her career with the sixth-most made three-pointers in school history, connecting on 42.9 percent during her senior campaign.
While Roche made her impact felt as the team’s best starting shooter, fellow senior guard Renee Busch provided super shooting off the bench. While Penn couldn’t get the win against Temple in the WNIT, the team’s regular season matchup was punctuated by a huge late-game three-pointer from Busch.
But beyond their individual accomplishments, the Quakers’ four seniors exemplified the style of basketball that turned the Red and Blue into one of the most formidable teams in the Ivy League.
Princeton may have stolen the show with their undefeated season (and criminal under-seeding in the NCAA Tournament), but Penn’s season shouldn’t be forgotten.Comments powered by Disqus
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