Rebounds were the name of the game.
Coming off of its first loss of the season over the weekend, Penn women’s basketball rallied to handily defeat Hartford by a 74-46 score. In their return to the Palestra, 35 rebounds contributed to the Red and Blue's win.
Hartford is a new team to the Quakers’ schedule, with this contest being the first time in history that the two schools have played each other.
“We had to go in with a new mindset, trying to get off our loss at Duke,” senior captain and guard Phoebe Sterba said. “It was a new opportunity, a new team, a new challenge.”
Co-captain and senior guard Kendall Grasela agreed with Sterba’s perspective of the Hartford game as a unique opportunity.
“It’s pretty exciting, a lot of times, especially during Ivies, you get so used to the players you’re playing against,” Grasela said. “It’s exciting to play a team you know nothing about … I think that helps us in the long run when we get to play against other teams, teams we don’t know a lot about, and preparing for the unknown.”
The Quakers opened to a fast start in the first quarter. Within the first six minutes, the Red and Blue ran out to a massive lead, scoring 21 points to Hartford’s three. However, the Hawks weren’t ready to roll over that early in the game.
In the second quarter, Hartford went on a nine-point run to narrow the gap. In total during the second quarter, the Quakers only scored half of the points that they did in the first.
Grasela helped break the game open with her playmaking style. Her three assists and three steals in the third quarter stopped any hope of a Hartford comeback and brought back the momentum to the Red and Blue. Led by their captain, the Quakers scored 24 points to Hartford’s six in the third. Having done her job, Grasela let her teammates take the team to the finish line in the remaining time.
“Our defense is what drives us the whole game," Sterba said. “Our pressure in our full-court press and then in our zone makes sure that they’re always uncomfortable."
The defensive emphasis translated cleanly to the offense, with 30 of the Quakers’ points coming off Hartford's 25 turnovers.
Junior forward Christina DiCindio, freshman forward Silke Milliman, and sophomore center Noelle Cahill were able to get on the court and on the scoreboard in the last quarter of play. DiCindio was able to draw a charge, and Milliman and Cahill both scored their first collegiate points. Against Penn’s non-starters, Hartford outscored Penn, 22-18, in the fourth quarter.
“Definitely when everybody on the team gets to play, it brings so much excitement out," Grasela said. "I think that shows how important every person is and how we’re one cohesive unit."
The team's bond and camaraderie were clear from the bench, as the Penn contingent erupted into cheers with every successful play in the fourth quarter.
“Everyone is putting in the same amount of effort," Sterba said. "Everyone is coming to practice and putting in the work."
The Quakers will have two more home games before traveling to Honolulu, Hawaii over Penn’s winter break. After that, the Red and Blue will travel back east to take on the Ivy League portion of their schedule.
For now, they’ll focus on picking up rebounds.
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