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Senior guard Kayla Padilla celebrates her game-winning layup in the final seconds against Temple on Dec. 11, 2022. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

There is perhaps no single player who epitomizes what it means to be a Quaker athlete quite like Kayla Padilla, a senior guard on women’s basketball. From the moment she first donned the Red and Blue in 2019, Padilla has been nothing short of dominant, racking up an extensive list of accolades and leading the Quakers to great success. Penn qualified for the Ivy League Tournament in two out of Padilla’s three seasons, and she holds the program record for three-pointers made in spite of her sophomore season being taken away by COVID-19.

In her senior campaign, Padilla did what she does best: create. As a guard with ample ability as both a scorer and passer, Padilla was the cog around which the rest of the Quaker offense turned. She both attempted and made more field goals than any other Penn player, and that usage came as a result of her incredible versatility on the offensive end. She was, of course, a threat from long-range but also a skilled slasher and never stopped moving — with or without the ball.

Perhaps the finest gem on the crown that was Padilla’s senior season was her performance at home against Harvard. After traveling to Cambridge and being trounced by the Crimson, 84-60, just two weeks prior, the Quakers ensured that the rematch on their turf would be different. Padilla led the way with 27 points and eight assists. Penn ultimately prevailed, 70-64, with Padilla saying after the game that the team’s philosophy was “not to take our foot off the gas pedal.”

Not once during her four-year Penn career did Padilla step off the gas — driving herself all the way to one of the greatest careers the program had ever seen. Padilla recently announced her commitment to USC as a graduate transfer, utilizing her final year of collegiate eligibility just 15 miles from her hometown of Torrance, Calif. But no matter where her journey with the Trojans takes her, she will always have a home at the Palestra.

Read about the rest of DP Sports' End of the Year Awards for the 2022-23 season here.