The Quakers may be down three starters and a key reserve from last season, but their schedule this year won't be any easier.
In all, Penn women’s basketball will play 27 regular season games. Here are the team's biggest games to watch out for.
Away vs. Siena College, Nov. 10
The Quakers will hope for a different result from their season-opener this time around after falling to Binghamton 77-72 on the road last season. Siena, a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, has not made the NCAA tournament since 2001.
“It’s a team we’re unfamiliar with,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We haven’t gotten into them, they probably haven’t gotten into us yet, but they are a successful program and I’ve known the coach for a while, so it was an easy mix.”
Away vs. Notre Dame, Nov. 12
This year, the Quakers will face Notre Dame, the 2018 national champions, in a rematch from last season. The result of last season's contest was a 66-54 loss, but the Quakers gave the Fighting Irish a run for their money.
“They’re honoring their team with the banner unveiling. I think a lot of that is going to be pretty interesting for our girls to witness and see," McLaughlin said. "This is probably the best team in the country, preseason number one.
"We know we’re up against that type of talent, but I want to see our kids understanding the environment that they’re going to be in and I want them to excel in it. I want them to embrace it; I want them to see that they’re playing against the best and have to be really good just to be competitive.”
Navy Classic, Nov. 24-25
Over Thanksgiving break, Penn will travel to The United States Naval Academy for the Navy Classic, where it will face Navy and Maine. The Quakers will first take on the Midshipmen on Saturday before facing Maine on Sunday.
“I just thought it was an opportunity, it’s just an incredible place. I’ve been there before, I’d love to see our players see it,” McLaughlin said.
The Black Bears made it to the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since 2004 by winning the America East Conference. Recent success for the Bears can be credited to second-year head coach, Amy Vachon, who will be looking to improve from her first year at Maine.
Away vs. Princeton, Jan. 5
The Penn-Princeton basketball rivalry has a long history of exciting games. Unfortunately for the Red and Blue, the Tigers took all three matchups in 2017, including the Ivy League Tournament championship game, where the Quakers suffered their worst loss of the season. The game sent the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament and left the Quakers to play in the less distinguished Women’s National Invitational Tournament. This year, Princeton is No. 1 in the 2018-2019 Ivy League Preseason Poll. The Quakers are right behind them, ranked No. 2.
“It’s a long way away, and I think they’re the most talented team in our league … but it’s Penn-Princeton, that’s all I can say,” McLaughlin said. “It’s just something that’s different, the mentality, the effort. Everything is just at a higher level, but they’re going to be really good. Someone’s going to have to be really good to give them a fight. So we’ll cross that road in about ten weeks.”
Home vs. Villanova, Jan. 16
Perhaps the most outstanding win for the Quakers last year came against the Wildcats. 2018 College graduate guard Anna Ross was the difference for the Red and Blue, finishing a layup with one second remaining to break the tie, giving Penn a 79-77 victory.
“One of the best wins we had on our schedule last year,” McLaughlin said of the game.
Villanova is a traditionally strong program. In the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats made it to the Sweet Sixteen, losing to eventual champ Notre Dame. The rivalry between Big 5 teams will only add to the competition.
Away vs. Harvard, Feb. 16
Harvard will be the final Ivy team the Quakers face in the first go-around with the Ancient Eight in mid-February. In the preseason poll, the Crimson are ranked third with 104 points, narrowly trailing Penn's 107 points. Other than the three Princeton games, Harvard was Penn’s only Ivy loss over the course of the season. However, the Quakers were able to come out on top in the first round of the Ivy Tournament.
“They’re a talented team.They have all their players back; they were all sophomores that are now strong juniors,” McLaughlin said.
This renewal of talent for Harvard is very different than the roster losses that Penn suffered over the off-season. Senior standouts Anna Ross, Michelle Nwokedi, and Lauren Whitlatch have graduated, taking with them much of the team’s experience.
For more about the upcoming season, check out the project page for the 2018-2019 Penn basketball preview.
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