Slow progress is better than no progress.
Despite a slow start to the calendar year for Penn women's basketball, it appears the Quakers are rounding into form. The Quakers have rattled off five straight victories, including a recent come-from-behind victory over Yale.
This weekend, Penn (15-5, 5-2 Ivy) will look to continue its winning streak as it hosts Dartmouth (8-13, 2-6 Ivy) and Harvard (14-7, 5-3 Ivy) in its second-to-last pair of home games. This marks a crucial turning point in the Ivy season, as the Quakers will get a second shot at every one of their conference opponents.
In the Quakers' first matchup against Dartmouth, everything went right. The team dominated the Big Green, 66-33, holding their opponent to a four-point second quarter and a five-point third quarter. The same couldn't be said the night before in Cambridge, Mass. where the Red and Blue were the victims of a stingy defense. The Quakers scored just two points in the second quarter — a jumper from junior center Eleah Parker — and they couldn't claw their way back into the game despite outscoring the Crimson by 12 in the second half.
The Red and Blue will be looking for offensive contributions from freshman guard Kayla Padilla, who leads the team with 18.3 points per game. They'll also be looking to get more out of Parker, who only averages 11.8 points per game this season — lower than her freshman and sophomore averages. Parker has been trending in the right direction as of late, though; in the four games prior to last week's matchup against Yale, Parker averaged over 20 points per contest.
Rounding out the rest of the starting five are senior guards Phoebe Sterba and Kendall Grasela, while junior forward Tori Crawford and sophomore forward Kennedy Suttle have split time in the starting lineup. The team's senior leadership is important as the Quakers look to challenge Princeton for the Ivy crown.
A characteristic strength of coach Mike McLaughlin's squads has been a tough defense, and this year's Quakers have proved no exception: they rank No. 13 in the country in points allowed, and opponents have shot just 34.5% against Penn this season — the 12th lowest mark in the nation.
The Quakers' momentum will be crucial this weekend against two teams that have struggled as of late. Dartmouth is just 1-6 in its past seven matchups, while the Crimson lost by 25 to Columbia last weekend. Hopefully, the Red and Blue are able to further progress up the conference standings.