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Photo from Erica Denhoff

Ivy Weekends are in full swing, and the Palestra will be the next site of the action for Penn women's basketball.

The Red and Blue will get a break from a hectic travel schedule this weekend, hosting Columbia on Friday and Cornell on Saturday in front of their home crowd. 

The Quakers (11-5, 1-2 Ivy) completed their first back-to-back against Ancient Eight opponents last weekend in New England. After dropping the first Ivy Weekend game of the season on Friday to Harvard (11-6, 2-2), the Red and Blue turned their momentum around against Dartmouth (7-10, 1-3), to snap a four-game losing skid.

“That was a great Saturday game, but let’s see what the carryover is,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “Any indication in practice was really good, so that’s good to see."

The Quakers were victorious in both of their meetings with Columbia (11-6, 2-2) last year, and will look to repeat that result when they host the Lions at the Palestra on Friday.

“The Harvard-Dartmouth trip is always the longest travel,” senior guard Phoebe Sterba said. “It’s definitely better being at home, just because you get to go home and sleep in your own bed, but you have to tackle [the game with] the same mentality, you can’t let anything just completely shift your mindset.”

Both the Quakers and the Lions have relied on new talent this season, with a freshman currently leading both teams in scoring. Columbia’s rookie guard Abbey Hsu has scored at least 15 points in each of her first four conference games and has collected three Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors, the most recent being this past week.

Penn freshman guard Kayla Padilla has likewise continuously proven her offensive prowess, collecting five Rookie of the Week honors and two Player of the Week awards for her efforts. In her first Ivy Weekend, Padilla led the team in scoring with 21 points against Harvard and 15 against Dartmouth, hitting five three-pointers versus the Crimson.

Credit: Gary Lin

In both games against Cornell (9-7, 2-2) last season, the Red and Blue handily defeated the Big Red, but last year’s scores won’t be on the Quakers’ minds when they face them again on Saturday.

“That was a whole different team last year from what we are now, different personnel, different systems,” Sterba said. “We can look on the past to maybe learn things that work and things that didn’t work, but we can’t go in being like, ‘Oh, we beat them last year, so we’re going to beat them this year.’”

A player to watch for the Big Red will be senior guard and co-captain Samantha Widmann, who recently became the 15th Cornell player in program history to surpass the 1,000 point mark. Widmann has been averaging 14.4 points per game, and has already surpassed last season’s scoring total of 145 points through 26 games by netting 230 in only 16.

Penn will continue to look for leadership from Sterba, who serves as co-captain. Sterba tied with Padilla for most points Saturday in the win against Dartmouth with 15, going 6-for-8 from the field, including 3-for-4 from long range.

“I think we’re just going to keep doing the same thing we’ve always done,” Sterba said. “I know it was a four-game losing streak, but we can’t let that completely shift us or try to change us. We’ve got to stay true to who we are.”

If this weekend goes according to plan, the Quakers will be in the position to harness their winning momentum to climb back up the Ivy League standings. 

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