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Credit: Sonali Chandy

In a rookie season for the books, Mataya Gayle proved herself to be the future of the Red and Blue women's basketball. Walking in with the pressure of filling the shoes of Kayla Padilla, one of Penn’s all-time greats, the Woodstock, Ga. native started all 28 games for Penn, in a freshman season where she earned Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Big Five Rookie of the Year. Ranking third on the team in scoring, first in assists, and first in steals by the end of the season, Gayle exceeded all expectations. 

Coming out of the gate hot, Gayle scored 25 points in only her third game as a Quaker and ended the season with five scoring performances of 20 or more. Additionally, she racked up seven Ivy Rookie of the Week awards and a USBWA National Rookie of the Week award, with the latter earned for notching 28 points in a win over a Maine team that would go on to win the America East championship. 

Gayle’s electric play was a primary reason Penn made it to the Ivy League Tournament as the fourth seed and earned a trip to Columbia to fight for an Ivy League title. It was on this stage where Gayle had arguably her greatest performance. In her first collegiate playoff game, a bout that saw Penn and Princeton lock into a tight back-and-forth, Gayle led all players in scoring (20) and assists (five).

While her performance wasn’t able to help the Red and Blue push past their perennial Ivy foil, the Tigers, it was enough to earn her an All-Tournament bid. Despite the season not ending as many had hoped, Penn has plenty to look forward to with Gayle running the point.