Penn women’s basketball has been craving a fresh start to the season after just missing out on the Ivy League tournament in March. And as such, its opener to the season proved electric, as the Quakers delivered a 65–61 win on Marist's own floor Thursday evening.
The first quarter began with few numbers on the scoresheet from either team. After almost three minutes, Penn (1-0) finally opened the scoring with an effort from sophomore guard Stina Almqvist off an assist from junior forward Floor Toonders. However, the Quakers then struggled with offensive production, shooting just 1/11 from the field, as Marist (0-2) went on a 13-0 run.
“In practice, the coaches have prepared us for these moments of adversity,” team captain and senior guard Kayla Padilla said. “Our opponents are going to go on runs, and it’s not so much how we take it but how we respond.”
Coming off a strong junior year campaign where she averaged 18.6 points per game, Padilla took some time to shake off the rust. But when she did, Padilla picked up right where she left off last season. After shooting only one for five from the field, Padilla took control of the game, scoring five points with under two minutes to go in the first quarter that brought the Quakers within six points of the Red Foxes' lead.
Carrying the momentum over into the second quarter, Padilla was the first Quaker to score from the three-point line on her way to notching 12 points in the second quarter alone that would contribute to the team’s 8-0 run to close the half. With one minute left before halftime, Toonders drained a free throw to give Penn its first lead in the game since its opening score. After scoring just two points in the first eight minutes of play, the Quakers would walk into the locker room with a 27-23 lead.
“We just hung in there,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We started off really slow, but we played through it and got into halftime up four, which was a huge accomplishment after being down eleven.”
Penn’s second-leading scorer from last year, junior forward Jordan Obi, left the game early in the second quarter with a leg injury. Penn women’s basketball charged on to fill the gap, and the Quakers continued to put up points at the start of the third quarter.
Riding off of Padilla’s hot hand which finished the night with 31 points, Toonders made an immediate impact in her debut as a Quaker, leading the team with 14 rebounds to match her career high.
“The main thing with us is to take it game by game,” Padilla said. “But at the end of the day, our goal is to make it to the Ivy League tournament that we missed last season… so that’s at the top of mountain for us, and I think we started on a good note today.”
Despite a late push from Marist’s junior forward Zaria Shazer and guard Kendall Krick who finished with a career-high of six three-pointers, the Red and Blue were able to protect their lead. Team captain and senior guard Mandy McGurk remained cool and collected as she made the free throws that would prove vital in closing out the game with a victory. In addition to Padilla’s offensive dominance, McGurk and Almqvist both contributed heavily to the scoresheet, putting up 10 and 8 points, respectively.
The Quakers will take the court again at Northwestern (0-1) this Sunday at 1:00 p.m., where they hope to extend their fierce start to the season.