Last Friday, Penn women's basketball lost to Princeton in the semifinals of the Ivy League Tournament. While the loss finished Penn's Ivy season and ended its dreams of a spot in March Madness, the Quakers will still be playing postseason basketball.
On Monday, the Women's National Invitation Tournament announced that Penn had been invited to the 2023 edition: a 64-team, single-elimination contest featuring schools not selected for the NCAA tournament.
In the first round, the Quakers will be playing the Richmond Spiders, who went 20-10 during the season before losing to Massachusetts in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 conference tournament. The game will be held at Richmond at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
This gives the Quakers a chance to continue their season — less than a week after it could have been over for good.
According to McLaughlin, the team is happy to be playing in the postseason and honored to be selected for the WNIT. But he also described a sense of finality: "If we fall short, it will be the end of the road for this group," he said.
Even while only going 8-6 in A-10 play, the Spiders outscored opponents by an average of 7.5 points per game over the course of the season. The team shot 44.4% from the field and 35% from long range, marks which would be first and third, respectively, in the Ivy League this season.
"They're going to spread us wide. They have five kids that can shoot the three," McLaughlin said. "[Richmond has] a really facilitating point guard that [senior guard] Mandy McGurk is going to have to contain. She can get in the lane, and when she gets in the lane, she creates a lot of havoc for a lot of people."
To combat Richmond's attack, Penn will have to employ new strategies. McLaughlin emphasized that senior center Faye Parker should be set to take on a larger role, especially considering her perimeter defense.
Despite the difficulties, McLaughlin is looking forward to facing a new challenge with Richmond.
"I think sometimes it's good to get back out of the [Ivy] League," he said. "When you play the last 15 games in league play, everyone knows what you're running and how you're running. Now that we get out of the league a little bit, maybe we can run some things that we haven't ran in a while."
Penn is not the only Ivy League school participating in this year's edition of the WNIT: Columbia and Harvard are also competing after falling during Ivy Madness. The Quakers could run into the Crimson as early as the Super 16, while a rematch against the Lions would have to wait until the Great 8.
For McLaughlin, this only speaks to the strength of the conference this year, with four schools placing in the top 117 in the country. He added that he is excited to see the growth Penn women's basketball is capable of with one last chance on the court.