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Credit: Ilana Wurman

There’s a new era of R&B in the Penn women’s basketball backcourt.

After Penn women’s basketball lost Kathleen Roche and Renee Busch to graduation last spring, Anna Ross and Beth Brzozowski are positioned to fill the void that opened at the close of last season.

Although the two sophomores largely split time at the point guard position last year, both will see slightly different roles, as Ross steps into the two and Brzozowski takes over as the first player off the bench at the point.

But it will be no small task for Ross and Brzozowski to replace the departed seniors.

Busch was a spark off the Quakers’ bench, and coach Mike McLaughlin could count on her to come into a game and stop the bleeding if the Red and Blue were struggling or keep the pedal on the gas if momentum was on their side. In Roche, the Red and Blue lost the sixth-best three-point shooter in program history and last year’s second-leading scorer.

Fortunately, Penn has a duo ready to replace them in Ross and Brzozowski. Although the former was flexed into a handful of minutes off the ball during her freshman year, this season will mark a more solid transition for her into a scoring role.

“Playing the two is much different than the one, so I had to just think about what I was going to do differently this year,” Ross said. “I had to change my mindset a little and then work on what I felt was going to work better as a two instead of a one. Because last year I played the one, you know, I split it with Beth the whole year, but the two is very different — it’s a different mindset, a different mentality.”

In Brzozowski, McLaughlin has an almost perfect fit when it comes to replacing Busch off the pine. The sophomore can come in for long stretches of the game, giving the Quakers depth at the point while allowing senior Kasey Chambers to ease into her starting role at the one.

“I’ll come off the bench pretty rested, and it’ll be a great opportunity to let Kasey kind of wind down, get a break,” Brzozowski said. “Even when we play together, when it’s Anna, Kasey and I on the court, I think it adds something to our offense.”

Largely, the only part of the backcourt that has changed is its faces. Not only will the duo function similarly to the way Roche and Busch did a year ago; they’ve also established an off-the-court relationship that mirrors last year’s seniors.

“I think it’s exactly like the seniors last year who left,” Ross said. “We just know each other, we connect off the court and on the court and I think our connection off the court definitely translates on the court.”

For the Red and Blue backcourt, it is a lot easier to mirror their predecessors when they have already been around the environment that fostered the 2015 graduates’ success in the first place.

“I think that’s really what people don’t see, [what’s] behind the scenes,” McLaughlin said. “Here, they came over Kathleen and [graduated senior] Katy Allen were here, Megan McCullough and Kristen Kody — who graduated the year before them — were at practice the other day. And they ended up speaking to our group, and I think that’s powerful.”

“I got the chance to watch Kath all throughout last year so she’s another person that I’m trying to model my game after because she had an amazing season last year,” Ross explained. “She was the strong two, so any way I can model my game after her, it’s going to be great this year, and it will show.”

So while that rhythmic sound fans will hear in the Palestra as the Quakers take the ball up the court this season might come from different R&B musicians, the tune will sound just the same.

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