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Women's Hoops Penn v Princeton Credit: Guyrandy Jean-GIlles , Guyrandy Jean-GIlles

Although Tuesday’s 55-42 loss to Princeton may have crushed Penn women’s hoops’ hopes of making its second-consecutive NCAA Tournament trip, the squad certainly did not come away from the season empty-handed.

For the second time in as many years, sophomore center Sydney Stipanovich earned Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year honors. The sophomore from St. Louis is the only player in Penn history to achieve such a feat.

Just take one look at Stipanovich’s numbers and her prowess on the court becomes clear. The sophomore leads the team in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocks. With a league-leading 77 blocks this season, Stipanovich’s numbers trail only the single season school record of 99 she set during her freshman campaign.

Perhaps what’s most impressive about Stipanovich’s statistics is not that she ranks nineteenth in the nation in blocks, but that she racked up those numbers while nursing a back injury.

“Her numbers were down a little bit because those days playing back to back games and she wasn’t herself as much and she just kept playing,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “It’s not easy to do.”

In addition to earning defensive honors, Stipanovich was one of two Ancient Eight players to be unanimously voted first-team All-Ivy.

Stipanovich was not the only Quaker to earn Ancient Eight honors for the 2014-15 season. Freshman phenom Michelle Nwokedi took home Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors, an award that was almost a foregone conclusion after the guard tallied six Ivy League Rookie of the Week nods. Nwokedi is the second consecutive Red and Blue member to earn this award after Stipanovich did in 2013-14.

The repeat honor for Penn is certainly a testament to the recruiting abilities of McLaughlin’s coaching staff. But beyond just that, it is a testament to Nwokedi herself.

“She is special,” McLaughlin said. “We had the ability this year with some returning post players to bring in Michelle maybe a little bit slower than even I would have liked. Her stats for what she did in our league [show] unbelievable growth.”

Part of Nwokedi’s success in the paint is no doubt due to the example set by defensive powerhouse Stipanovich and the veteran leadership of the Quakers’ graduating class of seniors. When asked to comment on what the graduating class has brought to the program, McLaughlin was effusive.

“I’ve never had a group of four kids work collectively like this group has.”

Two of those seniors were recognized by the Ancient Eight, with Kara Bonenberger earning second-team All-Ivy honors and Kathleen Roche earning Honorable Mention All-Ivy.

For Bonenberger, this marks her second consecutive time to be named second-team All-Ivy. McLaughlin suspected that the senior forward might not be satisfied even with the award – evidence of Bonenberger’s drive to continually grow as a player.

“She works, she works, she works and she’s a pain in the butt to play against,” McLaughlin said.

Rounding out the senior class are Katy Allen and Renee Busch, who McLaughlin calls “winners” even though they did not join their classmates in earning Ivy League accolades.

“They have really given so much to this program,” he said. “They’ve both had key moments this year and we wouldn’t be in the position we were if it wasn’t for them.”

With the Ivy League season in the books, all that is left for the Quakers is the Women’s National Invitation Tournament this upcoming weekend. Penn will find out its opponent on Monday.

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