For Penn women’s basketball, fierce competition does not stop off the court.
In accordance with a yearly Friendsgiving tradition, the team's players gather the week before Thanksgiving for an annual team dinner. This year, things turned competitive when a bake-off component was added. Each class coordinated to make a different baked good to see whose would be the best.
“There was a lot of tension in the room. The freshmen made pecan pie, the sophomores made peach cobbler, the juniors made coconut chocolate bars, and the seniors made a cinnamon-bun apple pie,” sophomore forward Kennedy Suttle said.
Ultimately, the players could not decide which class had baked the superior good. In an attempt to settle the debate, they brought in extra judging firepower in the form of the team’s photographer and super-fan: junior Michael Li.
“They’re probably one of the most competitive groups I’ve ever seen,” Li said.
True to their competitive nature, the players took their appointed judge’s ruling very seriously. However, after the title of best dessert was awarded to the sophomore classes’ peach cobbler, the remaining classes were less than enthused.
“It was definitely very heated. I think there was outrage from all the classes, especially the seniors, because they were talking a pretty big game and it ended up not winning,” junior forward Tori Crawford said.
“Apparently, the two leading desserts were the seniors' and the freshmen's before I got there, but I’m also generally a fan of peach so I might be biased. But I think the way the sophomores presented it [the cobbler] I just liked more,” Li said.
Controversial outcome aside, team bonding events like this help to build unity among the athletes. The event also helped to build a sense of family among teammates who didn’t get to return home over this Thanksgiving break to see their families.
“A huge part of our team, and a big reason why I chose Penn, was just the family environment. We genuinely enjoy spending time with each other, so I think it was just another way for us to get together and celebrate the holiday with our family here at Penn,” Crawford said.
Traditions like these certainly extend to chemistry on the court. This season, the team is off to a strong start, racking up six wins out of seven games. There is currently no shortage of Quakers on the leaderboards for the Ivy League, including freshman guard Kayla Padilla, who leads the Ancient Eight with 19.1 points per game.
While their history of Ivy League dominance is a clear source of their strong team bond, healthy competitions among the classes like the bake-off are fun ways for the players to channel their competitive streaks. Leaning on teammates is also a helpful way for the team to manage a chaotic holiday season schedule; this Saturday’s game against Stetson at noon in the Palestra will mark the team’s fourth game over eight days.
The seniors may or may not hold some residual resentment over the outcome of the bake-off, but it’s clear that deep down they’re aware of the bigger picture: great team chemistry among a talented group of athletes.
While the baking skill levels of the different classes are debatable, at least one thing is clear — the team is very good. And this holiday season, that's plenty reason to be thankful.