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The wait is over: M. Hoops opens season tonight

(11/17/99 10:00am)

No. 12 Kentucky hosts Penn in the first round of the Preseason NIT. Let the games begin. The date that Penn men's basketball fans have had circled on their calendars for months has finally arrived. At 9 p.m. tonight, the defending Ivy League champions kick off their 1999-2000 season at Kentucky in the first round of the preseason National Invitation Tournament. If the Quakers win, they will travel to Utah to play the Utes on Friday night. Utah routed Arkansas State, 76-43, last night. For the second consecutive year the Red and Blue open their season against a nationally ranked team. Last year, Penn began its 21-6 campaign with a 61-56 home loss to then-No. 8 Kansas. Tonight, the Quakers' opponent is Kentucky, which is ranked No. 12 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll and No. 14 in the Associated Press poll. "I think it's great for [us]," Penn senior center Geoff Owens said. "When we play a close game late in the year, we're prepared because we played five or six tough games in the beginning of the year." Kentucky has lived up to its reputation as a national powerhouse in recent years, winning two of the last four NCAA Championships. Normally, the Wildcats are among the top five or 10 teams in the nation in preseason polls but some voters are skeptical as the Wildcats only return one starter from the team that last year lost to Michigan State in the Regional Finals of the NCAA Tournament. Penn, on the other hand, returns three starters -- Owens and the senior backcourt of Michael Jordan and Matt Langel. The Quakers' edge in experience may play a large role, considering tonight's game is the season's first for both teams. "It will be a good test for us," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "It is a home game and I think that helps us. Every game is a dangerous game but as an opener, I would think their experience and veteran play would give them the edge." While fans may be surprised to hear Smith heap such praise on the opponents, Penn's experience may come in handy when it comes to not getting frustrated by Kentucky's full-court press. "We're going to hopefully handle the pressure by not turning the ball over," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "We need to get the ball in bounds first and then make real good decisions as we bring the ball up the floor." Penn's starters, the first five Quakers to deal with that press, will most likely be Owens, Jordan, Langel, senior forward Frank Brown and Oggie Kapetanovic, a 6'10" forward/center who sat out last season after transferring from Brown. Along with Kapetanovic, the Red and Blue have six additional new faces on this year's squad. Highly touted freshman forward Ugonna Onyekwe and classmate Koko Archibong, also a forward, should get a significant amount of minutes off the bench as Penn tries to fill the holes left by the graduation of forwards Paul Romanczuk and Jed Ryan. "How many minutes are [the freshman] going to get?" Dunphy said. "I have no idea. When they do get in there, if they play well they are going to stay in there, and if they don't we'll make some substitutions." A freshman who may get some minutes at both the guard and forward positions is Duane King. King, a Louisville, Ky., native, has played on Rupp's hardwood before. "I played my last high school game in that arena," King said. "I played five games there over my high school years because we had our state tournament there." Although King has never attended a Wildcats game there, he has played in front of over 20,000 people at Rupp Arena and expects the crowd noise will be a huge factor. Crowd aside, Penn will still have to overcome a more tangible force in Kentucky center Jamaal Magloire. The 6'10" senior led the Wildcats in blocks last year with 66 and averaged 7.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in just 19.6 minutes per game. "He's a terrific basketball player," Dunphy said. "In the two preseason games that we saw on film, I thought he did a great job posting up inside. He seals his man as good as anybody we've played against. [Stopping him] will be a real tough chore for us, but hopefully we'll be ready." Although Kapetanovic has played against fellow Ontario native Magloire, the chore of defending the Kentucky senior belongs to Owens. "I know I have to be a factor for our team to win," Owens said. "Even if I give up a few shots early, if I can stay in the game and get it back on offense, that's going to make us that much better." While Penn will focus on beating Kentucky's press and neutralizing Magloire, Kentucky is worried about the matchup in the backcourt. The Wildcats backcourt is anchored by junior point guard Saul Smith, son of Tubby Smith. Smith and sophomore guard Desmond Allison, the Wildcats' sole returning starter, will try to prevent Jordan from generating offense and also take away open looks for Langel and Jordan on the perimeter. "Pennsylvania has one of the better backcourts in the nation," Saul Smith said. "I think the depth of our backcourt will play a factor in the game. We want to come out, play a fast-paced game and wear them down. We want to run as many guys as possible at Michael Jordan and make it hard for him to score." But as much as the Kentucky hoopsters claim to know about Penn, they still made the typical first-time comments regarding the Quakers and their star point guard, MJ. "I'm looking forward to facing Michael Jordan," Saul Smith said. "I've only met the Michael Jordan that played for the Chicago Bulls, and he was pretty good." Although the Red and Blue will not have the future NBA Hall of Famer on their side, the Quakers are confident that, unlike last year, they can open the season with a win against one of the most prestigious college basketball programs in the country. "I think we've got a great chance," Owens said. "We've really scouted them well. We know they're a young team and they are going to pressure a lot, so if we can handle their pressure and shut down their inside game, we'll be in great shape to win the game."

Time is running out for Football

(11/12/99 10:00am)

Penn takes on Harvard as the two teams vie to stay alive in the Ivy race. It's No. 1 vs. No. 2. While Penn's battle with Harvard tomorrow on the Harvard Stadium gridiron is not a matchup of the top two teams in the Ivy League, it is a battle between the top two running backs -- Quakers sophomore Kris Ryan and Crimson senior Chris Menick. Individual matchups aside, this game is a must-win for both teams -- Penn (4-4, 3-2 Ivy League) faces elimination with a loss, but Harvard (5-3, 3-2) would still have a mathematical chance -- however minuscule -- at winning the league even with a loss tomorrow. Penn's Ryan leads the Ancient Eight with 1,161 rushing yards and is fifth in Division I-AA with 145.13 yards rushing per game. Menick is second to Ryan in rushing yardage in the Ivy League with 906 yards and ranks 25th nationally with 113.3 yards per game. With another solid year carrying the football, Menick has amassed enough yardage -- he is currently up to 3,267 career yards -- to break the Harvard career record for rushing yards. "He is an excellent runner and a tough kid," Penn senior linebacker Jim Hisgen said. "He is the type of guy who will play hard every play and we have to try and match him every time he touches the ball." Menick's work ethic on the field sounds comparable to Ryan's. "They are actually very similar," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "They both are excellent inside runners and they both do a good job of keeping their leg drive going." Although similar in style, the two backs differ greatly in stature. Ryan has two inches and at least 35 pounds on the Crimson's diminutive 5'10" tailback. But if any defense in the Ivy League can slow down the powerful Ryan it's the Crimson defense. Harvard's run stoppers allow a mere 91.6 yards per contest -- eighth best in Division I-AA. Harvard's defense is anchored by senior linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski, who also holds a spot in the Crimson record books. Adding 10 tackles against Brown last week, Kacyvenski now has 112 tackles this fall, good enough to break his own record for tackles in a season. Kacyvenski also shattered Harvard's record for career tackles earlier this season. His 372 tackles are 99 better than any other player in Crimson history. But Kacyvenski's most impressive statistic is still a record in the making. Barring injury in the last 10 days of the season, Kacyvenski is just two starts shy of becoming the first player in Harvard history to start all 40 games of his collegiate career. While the Kacyvenski-led Harvard defense might be able to stop Ryan, Penn's rushing defense stands a decent chance of doing the same against Menick. The Quakers' run defense allows 94.9 yards per game -- good for 10th place in Division I-AA. The Quakers' defense, however, acknowledges that shutting down Menick, who was out with an ankle injury during Penn's 41-10 drubbing of Harvard last year, is a key to victory tomorrow. "We feel that Harvard is going to try to establish a run game early," Penn senior defensive lineman Michael Germino said. "We can take their game plan away by stopping the run. We want to force them to pass the ball after we stop the run." If the Red and Blue are successful at stuffing Menick at the line of scrimmage, the Crimson's offensive burden will fall on the unlikely shoulders of senior quarterback Brad Wilford. Although he is a senior, Wilford has played second fiddle his entire career to Harvard's other senior quarterback, Rich Linden. With 2,099 yards passing his sophomore year, Linden quarterbacked the Crimson to a 7-0 record in the Ivy League and the 1997 league title. Meanwhile, Wilford had only 53 passing attempts entering the 1999 season. However, he has since stolen the starting job from the veteran Linden. "I don't know what is going on with the quarterbacks," Germino said. "[Wilford] is an average quarterback and he doesn't run as well as Linden." Wilford has done a decent job passing the football by completing 57.4 percent of his passes for 1,593 yards this fall. The Penn defense will also look to carry the momentum from the Princeton game, in which they forced five turnovers. "We really have done a poor job in the plus-minus ratio of turnovers," Bagnoli said. "Going into Princeton, we were last in the league in the turnover ratio." The Quakers did a good job of forcing Princeton errors, including three second-half interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns by sophomore defensive back Kunle Williams. Meanwhile, the Penn offense only turned the ball over once. "That's the part we have to continue to harp on, protecting the football offensively and defensively creating turnovers," Bagnoli said. While Penn tries to keep its slim Ivy League title hopes alive by winning the turnover battle, the biggest side story at Harvard Stadium will be which running back proves he is the cream of the Ivy crop.

Last meeting of century for Quakers and Tigers

(11/06/99 10:00am)

The Penn football team must defeat Princeton in order to keep its hopes for an Ivy League title alive. You can take the losses to Brown and Yale and throw them out the window. You can take Penn's fifth-place spot in the Ivy League standings and throw it out the window. You can even take the Quakers' 1998 Ivy League Championship and give it the old heave-ho as well. Why? Because it's Penn vs. Princeton for the last time this century. One of the Ivy League's most storied rivalries will face off on the Franklin Field gridiron at 12:30 this afternoon in what will be the last Homecoming game of this millennium. And it should be a good game as well. Princeton faced a slew of question marks on offense entering the 1999 campaign but has progressively improved throughout the season. "They've done the things they've had to do to get that offense to be much more efficient than it was against Cornell," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "This is probably not the best time to play them." Coming into the season, junior quarterback Jon Blevins was the only experienced quarterback. That's if you can call three passing attempts experience. But it has been sophomore Tommy Crenshaw, who also pitches for the Tigers baseball team, who has emerged as the starter. Crenshaw has completed 54.8 percent of his passes for 1,111 yards. Moreover, he has shown vast improvement since being named the starting quarterback. In the last three weeks, Crenshaw has averaged over 250 yards passing per game while hitting his receivers 61.1 percent of the time. This has caused his passing efficiency to skyrocket from 68.4 to 102.8 in that three-week span, which is pretty remarkable for a guy who had more decisions on the pitching mound his freshman year (two) than snaps on the football field (zero). Crenshaw's favorite target has been senior wide receiver Phil Wendler. In the midst of an All-Ivy caliber season, Wendler is second in the Ivies in receptions with 52 and third in receiving yards with 555. "He's a pretty good receiver," Penn sophomore defensive back D.L. Bouldrick said. "He has a lot of experience, good size, good speed and good hands." With at least six receptions in each game this season, Wendler has been a far more explosive threat than the rest of the Princeton receiving corps. Despite the threat Wendler imposes, the Quakers will make an effort not to over-adjust their game plan to defend him. "We're pretty confident in the systems that we have," Bouldrick said. "Every week there are always little twists that we'll do to our own coverages but I doubt that we'll completely change our defense for one receiver." The source of the Tigers running game was also a question that has been answered in the first seven weeks of the season by two Princeton tailbacks. "They went to a platoon running the ball and got a freshman involved there, who is a pretty good player," Bagnoli said. The freshman is Cameron Atkinson, who has 316 yards rushing on 82 carries, including two 100-plus yard rushing performances. His platoon partner in the backfield is the Tigers' leading rusher both this year and last. Senior running back Derek Theisen led Princeton with only 487 yards last year and is on pace to finish his senior year with about the same yardage. Unlike the Tigers, Penn has been hampered by injuries and has not seen the kind of progress on offense it would like. "We're still not where we want to be offensively," Bagnoli said. "We're plagued by some things we can't control. We seem to have a running battle with who is going to play wide receiver." Bagnoli noted that injuries to wide receivers Jason Battung and John Holohan impeded their development in key receiving roles. "It's hard to get those people to the level you want when you don't have them for consecutive weeks," Bagnoli said. One Penn receiver who has managed to avoid the injury bug is sophomore Rob Milanese. Milanese leads the Red and Blue with 26 receptions for 450 yards. Milanese and the rest of Penn's offense will need to continue their improvement if the Quakers are to succeed against Princeton's sound defense. The Tigers defense is anchored by senior defensive end David Ferrera, who already holds the Princeton record for most career sacks with 27.5, including his 4.5 sacks this fall. Although the Tigers have not dominated any one statistical category, they are second in the Ancient Eight in yardage defense and third in scoring defense, allowing 316.14 yards and 20.3 points per game. The most amazing fact about Princeton's defense is that it has not relinquished a lead all season. In all three of the Tigers' victories, they never trailed, which means the Quakers better get ahead early if they want to keep their hopes for an Ivy League title alive. Although four teams stand ahead of Penn in the Ivy League standings, the Quakers -- just one game behind -- still could pull off a minor miracle and win the Ivy League title. "This week is going to be a big week because you've got Yale, Harvard, Cornell and Brown all with one loss, yet they're all playing each other this week," Bouldrick said. "After this week there will be just two teams with one loss." The best scenario for the Quakers would be if Cornell beat Yale at home and Harvard upset Brown in Providence. That would leave Cornell and Harvard as the only teams with one loss, which would be ideal because Penn plays the Crimson and Big Red in its final two games. Then, all the Quakers would have to do is win out to clinch a share of the Ivy League crown. Even if Yale and Brown emerge victorious today, Penn can be co-champions if both Yale and Brown could lose one of their last two games, and the Quakers end the season at 5-2 in the Ivy League. But in the meantime, Penn is just trying to put Princeton in its place one last time before the calendar rolls ahead to 2000.

Analysis: Brown QB Perry rewrites Ivy League record book

(10/25/99 9:00am)

Move over, Jay Fiedler. While Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Fiedler -- a former Dartmouth star -- may have found a home in the NFL, it may not be long before he's joined in the league by another Ivy Leaguer. After his record-smashing performance against Penn, Brown's James Perry has solidified himself as one of the all-time great quarterbacks in the history of the Ivy League. Coming into the game, Perry needed 259 passing yards to break the Ivy League record for career passing yards. It took him less than two quarters to amass enough yardage to pass Columbia's John Witkowski's 16-year old record of 7,849 passing yards in a career. With under one minute remaining in the first half, Brown had a second-and-15 on its own 45-yard line and Perry was 36 yards shy of adding one more record to his collection. Dropping back in the pocket, Perry saw that all but one of the Bears' receivers were on the left side of the field, but Brown junior flanker Billy Rackley was standing wide open near the right sideline. Perry connected with Rackley, who danced all the way to the Penn one-yard line before he was forced out of bounds. The 54-yard reception not only put Brown deep in Penn's territory, but also gave Perry his fourth major Ivy League passing record. Last week against Rhode Island, Perry completed 28 passes, four for touchdowns. This gave him the records for most career completions and touchdowns in Ivy League history with 634 and 60, respectively. Perry also holds the record for most completions in a season with 274, which he set last fall. "When you look at him and really study him, it's not hard to see why he is statistically the record holder," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "Some of it is what they do but a lot of what they do is driven by his talents." Perry's talents have now helped defeat Penn for two consecutive seasons. In fact, Brown is the only team in the Ancient Eight that has been able to defeat the Quakers the last two years. "'[Perry] loves the competition," Brown coach Phil Estes said. "He loves to play against the very best, and the last two years he's come through big time." Last year, Perry found so many holes in the formidable Penn defense that he made them look like Swiss cheese, going 37-for-53 with 470 yards and five touchdowns en route to a thrilling 58-51 victory over the Red and Blue. This year's encore performance was equally as brilliant. Perry connected on 31-of-50 passes, accumulating 440 yards and five touchdown passes. Perry's box score statistics do not come close to capturing how well he played in the clutch. The Bears converted on their first six third-down situations -- twice because Penn jumped offsides and the other four times because Perry completed passes. On a third-and-14, minutes after the opening kickoff, Perry threw 14 yards downfield to Rackley, who caught the ball and ran it in for a 29-yard touchdown reception to open the game's scoring. "It's actually really frustrating because a lot of times you are trying to get pressure, and you get pressure, and he just makes some unbelievable throws," Penn senior defensive tackle Jason Maehr said. Perry's other four passes for touchdowns were thrown to his favorite target, junior split end Stephen Campbell, who leads NCAA Division I-AA receivers in receptions per game this season. Two of Perry's four touchdown passes to Campbell came on third downs as well. Clinging to a 28-23 lead, Perry found Campbell over the middle on third-and-three on a five-yard slant pattern. Campbell burned the Quakers' secondary to turn the five-yard play into a 41-yard Bears touchdown. Later, winning 37-23 in the fourth quarter, the Bears faced a third-and-11 on the Penn 12. Perry found Campbell in the end zone to give Brown an almost insurmountable 21-point lead after the successful extra point. The crucial 44-37 Brown victory, which pulled the Bears into a tie for the league lead, was the perfect way for Perry to end yet another record-setting day. Although Perry has rewritten the Ivy League record book, Estes pointed out that there is still one goal he has yet to reach. "He's got to win an Ivy League title."

Notebook: O'Neill not ready to return to lineup yet

(10/13/99 9:00am)

Injured wide receiver Doug O'Neill will miss several more weeks. When Penn senior wide receiver Doug O'Neill tore his posterior cruciate ligament before the Quakers' first game, he was only expected to miss the first half of the season. Well, the Penn football team has already played four of 10 games, and no return is imminent. According to Penn coach Al Bagnoli, "O'Neill is still not back and probably will not be back." O'Neill's absence is a major blow to the receiver corps. Moreover, junior wide receiver Jason Battung is questionable for this week's game at Columbia, but his classmate John Holahan will return after missing last week's Fordham game. The offensive line will also get a boost from the return of senior center Carmelo Rubano. The defensive backfield, however, is getting the biggest aid with the return of seniors Joey Alofaituli and Hasani White, both of whom missed last week's game against Fordham. · After taking a three-week hiatus from Ivy League play, Penn resumes its Ivy League schedule Saturday in Manhattan when it travels to Columbia. Entering their fifth game of the season, the Quakers are in an unfamiliar position. For the first time since 1996, they have started the season 2-2. In direct contrast to this season, Penn opened its 1996 season by losing to Dartmouth and beating Bucknell two weeks later. If the trend continues, Penn should win this weekend, considering the Quakers lost to the Lions by one point in the '96 campaign. The bad news for the Penn faithful is that Penn has never won an Ivy League championship after starting the season 2-2. · Although the Quakers have developed a sound running game and the defense has played well, allowing an average of 314 yards per game -- second best in the Ivy League -- Penn coach Al Bagnoli is still looking for his team to improve. "I don't think we're where we want to be," Bagnoli said. "We have our good moments but we have too many inconsistencies. Some of it is caused by youth, some of it is caused by injury." In fact, Bagnoli is looking for more consistency in all aspects of the game. "One play we can run and get 50 yards for a touchdown and the next play we don't block a soul," Bagnoli said. "On one play we'll stop them for no gain and on the same play they get 12 yards. One time we punt the ball 50 yards, the next time we punt it 12." · After just four collegiate starts, Penn sophomore running back Kris Ryan has already entered the Penn record books. His 256-yard rushing performance against Fordham on Saturday is third best in Penn history, behind Terrance Stokes' 272 and Jim Finn's 259; Ryan, however, did set the record for most rushing yards in a non-conference game. "I'm just playing my heart out, trying to have some fun and trying to win some games," Ryan said. "It's been kind of surprising to myself that I've been having so much success." If Ryan continues at this pace, he'll own every record in the book. He is averaging 147 yards per game, which means he's on pace to graduate with 4,410 career yards. That would put Ryan over 1,200 yards ahead of Bryan Keys, who currently holds the Penn career rushing record with 3,137 yards. With 4,410 yards, Ryan would also have the most yards of total offense in Quakers' history, breaking Jimmy McGeehan's record of 4,087 yards -- 3,954 passing and 133 rushing. "He's got a pretty nice combination," Bagnoli said. "He's 225 to 230 pounds and he's fast -- nobody has caught him yet -- and he's fairly elusive. He's making people miss in the open field." His ability to make Fordham miss earned him a spot on the Ivy League honor roll for this week. · Penn's 1-0 conference record is currently good for second place in the Ancient Eight. The surprise is that Penn is looking up at Cornell in the standings. Cornell? The same Cornell team that was picked to finish seventh in the preseason media poll? Yes, that Cornell. After clobbering Princeton in its season opener, the Big Red have since upset Brown on the road and staged a last-minute comeback to defeat Harvard. "They went to Princeton, got a big win and huge confidence boost and now they think they can win," Bagnoli said. "They're so young they probably don't know any better." Cornell has been led by sophomore quarterback Ricky Rahne, who leads the Ivy League with 1,279 yards passing and 10 touchdown passes. The Big Red lead the league in passing offense and are second in passing defense. "The only thing that I've learned in this league is that regardless of where you are picked, this league has tremendous parity and if you can get your skilled kids to play well -- and their skilled kids, the quarterback specifically, are playing well -- you have a shot every week," Bagnoli said. The last time the Big Red started their Ivy League season 3-0 was in 1994, when Penn was also 3-0 in the conference. Cornell went on, however, to lose its last four league contests. Meanwhile, the Quakers won their last four, including an 18-14 victory over the Big Red in the season finale to cap off an undefeated season.

Late rally not enough for Football

(10/04/99 9:00am)

Bucknell holds on to beat the Quakers at Franklin Field Bucknell holds on to beat the Quakers at Franklin Field the Bison scored 23 straight points to hand host Penn its second loss of the season. In the most logical and straightforward way, Penn football coach Al Bagnoli summed up the reason for Saturday's 23-16 loss to Bucknell in merely seven words. "It all comes down to making plays," he said. The game seemed all but lost with six minutes left and the Quakers down 23-7, but Penn mounted a stunning comeback. Ten points, a recovered onside kick and a defensive stand later, Penn trailed the Bison by seven with the ball 75 yards from the Bucknell endzone. Quakers quarterback Gavin Hoffman marched Penn to the Bucknell 29 but the Red and Blue came up short when he fumbled the ball while being sacked with 18 seconds remaining. It seemed like the Bison always converted in dire situations, giving Penn (1-2) its second straight loss at Franklin Field. For starters, with no score in the game's opening moments, Bucknell (4-1) faked a punt on its own 23-yard line. The ball was snapped directly to Bucknell inside linebacker Shawn Redd, who broke through the middle for a gain of 34 yards. "We think we're a decent football team and we were going to play our game? and not play conservative," Bucknell coach Tom Gadd said. In the third quarter, Gadd used the exact same trick on a fourth-and-two, successfully extending the Bison drive. Bucknell's biggest play on special teams, however, came late in the third quarter with the Bison clinging to a 10-7 lead. Twenty yards from a first down, Penn was forced to punt from its own 24-yard line. Penn sophomore Ryan Lazzeri's punt was blocked by Bucknell defensive back Bobby Young and downed on the Quakers' 30-yard line. Although it took the Bison nine plays to score a touchdown from 30 yards out, they were able to convert on all three third downs during their drive. The most crucial third-down play of the drive came when Bucknell faced a third-and-goal from the Quakers' six-yard line. The Bison shifted their formation at the line of scrimmage and then Bucknell senior quarterback Don McDowell found freshman wide receiver Jim Horan in the end zone for six points. "We knew a shift was coming and we [went] into man coverage, which would have taken care of all those adjustments," Bagnoli said. "The kid just blew a circuit." The other two Bucknell touchdowns also came on short-yardage situations deep in the red zone. Bucknell's first touchdown of the afternoon came courtesy of a two-yard McDowell run on third down, which gave the Bison a 10-7 lead -- a lead they would never relinquish. Then, winning 16-7 in the fourth quarter, Gadd decided to "not play conservative" and go for the first down when Bucknell had a fourth-and-one just two yards from the Penn endzone. The Bison ran a naked bootleg that McDowell took in for his second touchdown. "It was frustrating because we almost called every play," Bagnoli said. "On the naked reverse, we kind of had that one called too and our end just missed him in open field. The [quarterback] is a terrific player. "You get yourself in that situation where its quarterback versus defensive end, and it's going to take an exceptional defensive end to make the play in open field." McDowell finished 13-for-28 passing for 106 yards but he played an integral part in all three Bucknell touchdowns. The most influential Bison on the stat sheet, however, was sophomore flanker Jabu Powell. While Powell caught three passes for 49 yards, he spent most of the game running the ball when tailbacks Dan Palko and LaMario Bradwell left the game with injuries. "I'm a natural tailback," Powell said. "I've been playing tailback most of my life so the transition wasn't hard for me." Powell accumulated 102 yards on the ground on just 12 carries, including a 43-yard run during the touchdown drive which gave Bucknell a 23-7 lead. "I can't tell you how much it meant to see him run the football up the field because I don't think anybody has run the ball on Penn, including Villanova," Gadd said. The ground attack was one of the few positives for the Quakers as well. Penn sophomore tailback Kris Ryan averaged 6.3 yards per carry en route to a career best 152-yard performance. Ryan has piled up 332 rushing yards this season on just 51 carries. "We were tackling but not wrapping up," Redd said. "When you have a big back like that you just have to run your feet through him." The other positive that Bagnoli would like to take from this loss is the Quakers' late-game resilience. "We could have just said 'to hell with it,'" Bagnoli said. "I think we showed a little bit of resolve." Once the Quakers fell behind 23-7, the offense began to click. On the ensuing drive, Hoffman, who missed part of the second and third quarters with a slight concussion, went 7-for-8 for 75 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown bomb to sophomore Erik Bolinder. Now trailing 23-13, the Quakers went for the two-point conversion to pull within eight. This time it was the Bucknell defense that made the big play, as they stuffed Hoffman at the goal line when he tried to scramble for the conversion. "I'm the free guy in the middle and it's my responsibility to come up and make sure he doesn't get in," Bucknell junior inside linebacker Vince Ficca said. "I just tried to put everything into my hit because those points were very important." Thereafter, Penn recovered an onside kick and subsequently kicked a field goal to cut Bucknell's lead to 23-16. After stopping the Bucknell offense, the Red and Blue had a chance to tie with 48 second remaining and the ball on their own 25. Penn made it down to the Bucknell 29, but Hoffman fumbled the ball while being sacked. Bison defensive end John Papadakis hit Hoffman for the sack and defensive lineman Eric Green made the final clutch play by recovering the fumble, thus preserving the Bucknell fourth victory of the season and giving Penn its second straight loss.

All-Patriot Redd reunites with former teammate

(09/30/99 9:00am)

Buckneel linebacker Shawn Redd played at BU alongside Penn's Mike Germino. The Trustees of Boston University should soon be receiving thank yous in the mail from the Bucknell football fans, if they haven't already. Following its 1997 season, the BU football program went under, prompting many of its football players to transfer to other schools. That's how Bucknell acquired senior inside linebacker Shawn Redd, who earned first-team All-Patriot League honors in his first season with the Bison. Penn was also a beneficiary of the termination of the Terriers football program. Penn senior defensive lineman Mike Germino, who was the Terriers' freshman MVP in 1996, transferred from BU in 1998 and helped Penn win an Ivy League Championship. Saturday's game at Franklin Field will be the second time Redd and Germino will be reunited on the field. Last weekend, Germino also played against some former teammates who are now at Villanova. "It's weird but it's a lot of fun," Germino said. "It's a good feeling to be on the field with those guys because that's the way it was supposed to be. We didn't transfer by choice." Redd indicated that the BU program went defunct because the university claimed to be in debt after constructing a few new buildings and the school needed money for some of its female sports. Looking to continue his college football career, Redd checked out the possibility of transferring to either another school in New England -- such as Northeastern, UConn or Maine -- or one of the Patriot League schools that recruited him out of high school. "I decided to go to Bucknell because BU and Bucknell are basically on the same education level," Redd said. "Plus, I knew they were coming off a 10-1 playoff season." It seemed like a logical decision, but little did Redd know that a major transition lay ahead. After sitting out his first year at BU as a redshirt freshman, Redd started at safety during his only season with the Terriers. Upon his arrival at Bucknell in the fall of '98, Bucknell coach Tom Gadd moved him to inside linebacker -- and Redd has stayed there ever since. "At first it was hard because when you move inside everything is coming at you all at once," Redd said. "I'm [still] trying to learn the system on defense, so I can fit in better." Redd did a good job disguising any difficulties he may have endured. He anchored a Bison defense that was tops among Patriot League teams against the run, allowing 122.1 yards per game. During his first season at inside linebacker, he had 82 tackles and six sacks -- second best in both categories among returning Bucknell players. Moreover, four of those sacks were recorded against Colgate alone, which tied a school record for sacks in a game. "He's handled the move very well because you never know when you move a kid inside how he's going to react," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "Everything is in much closer confined quarters." Bucknell's defense, however, suits Redd's style of play very well, contributing to his successful play. "Speed is one of my stronger attributes," Redd said. "The package we run allows me to make plays with speed." While Redd possesses that necessary inside quickness, he sacrifices something in size as a converted safety. To put it in perspective, Bucknell's other inside linebacker, Steve Burman, has two inches and 30 pounds on the BU transfer. "We're trying to run some plays right at [Redd] because he's not a big kid," Bagnoli said. "We're trying to run some counter plays to freeze him and we're trying to run some plays away from him to try to see if we can cut him off." Penn will need to be aware of Redd's location on the field considering he led all players with 10 tackles, including one for a loss, when the Orange and Blue battled the Red and Blue last year. The one tackle Redd made for a loss was probably his biggest. Leading the Bison 13-3, Penn had the ball in the second half's opening possession. Facing a third-and-one just inside Bucknell territory, quarterback Matt Rader ran a draw but was stuffed for a one-yard loss by Redd, forcing Penn to punt. Despite his success against the Red and Blue last fall and the loss of Rader and running back Jim Finn to graduation, Redd is not taking the Penn offense lightly. "We respect them," Redd said. "They're aggressive up front, and they use a lot of formations, which we have to pay attention to." Redd and the rest of the Bucknell defense will need to be on their toes on Saturday. Unlike BU did two years ago, Penn has no plans to give the Bison any gifts.

Football tops Green in sloppy opener

(09/20/99 9:00am)

The Quakers beat Dartmouth in turnover-filled Ivy League opener at Franklin Field. Dartmouth may have be donning new helmets, but the same anemic offense that plagued the Big Green last year showed up Saturday, enabling the Penn football team to win its season opener, 17-6. Penn's defense held Dartmouth (0-1, 0-1 Ivy League) to 169 total yards -- 85 yards rushing and 84 yards passing -- and the Big Green's lone score of the day came on a meaningless touchdown with 28 seconds remaining in the season opener. "We weren't able to run the ball as effectively as we wanted to, especially on first and second downs," said Dartmouth tailback Reggie Belhomme, who led the Big Green with 63 yards on only 3.3 yards per carry. As a team, the Big Green managed only 2.4 yards per rush, but that is not to say Dartmouth didn't have its chances to score. In fact, the Big Green posed more of an offensive threat in the game's early minutes. "We had opportunities early in the game," said Dartmouth head coach John Lyons. "We had some pretty good field position as a result of turnovers, and we just couldn't capitalize on it." The Quakers (1-0, 1-0) also had some trouble capitalizing early, as their first two possessions ended in turnovers. With the ball at midfield and 11:32 remaining in the first quarter, Dartmouth senior linebacker Marshall Hyzdu deflected a pass from Penn quarterback Gavin Hoffman that resulted in Dartmouth senior defensive end Kyle Schroeder's first interception of the year. Dartmouth managed to get one first down after getting the ball at midfield, but was forced to punt after failing to get into field goal range. On the Quakers' following possesion, Hoffman fumbled the snap and Dartmouth recovered the ball on the Penn 18-yard line -- good for Dartmouth's best starting field possession of the day. The Big Green could only muster three yards, courtesy of a senior wide receiver Mike Poncy reception, on its next series. So with a fourth-and-seven situation on the Penn 15-yard line, Dartmouth placekicker Alex Csizinsky came in to attempt a field goal that would give Dartmouth an early lead. Csizinsky's longest field goal in 1998 was 42 yards, so this 32-yarder was well within his range. Nevertheless, the game remained scoreless because Penn sophomore Erik Bolinder partially blocked the kick, causing it to sail wide right. "If we could have scored early and got some momentum and confidence, I think that would have really helped us today," Lyons said. "It was a game we could have had if we stepped up and made some plays when we needed to." After Dartmouth failed to take the early lead, it was Penn who made big plays to put points on the scoreboard. On Dartmouth's third possession of the game, the Big Green were once again able to enter Penn territory. However, with 3:03 left in the first quarter, Penn senior linebacker Jim Hisgen intercepted a pass on the Quakers' 35-yard line and returned the ball 16 yards to the Dartmouth 49. For the next 48 minutes, it would be all Quakers, as Penn would score 17 points, while Dartmouth's offense would not even advance pass the 50-yard line until its last drive of the game. Following Hisgen's interception, Penn would break the scoreless tie on a 25-yard field goal by Penn placekicker Jason Feinberg. The chip shot came largely thanks to a 37-yard pass from Hoffman to senior wide receiver Brandon Carson. The ball was slightly underthrown, but Carson, who led the Quakers with six catches for 67 yards, did a good job of coming back to the ball and making the catch. Penn's first touchdown also was a product of a big play on offense. After swiftly moving the ball upfield in merely two plays, the Red and Blue had a first-and-10 on the Dartmouth 48. On the ensuing play, Penn sophomore running back Kris Ryan took the handoff and broke several tackles, en route to a 48-yard touchdown run to give Penn a 10-0 lead. "In a perfect world, Kris Ryan is going to break some tackles and [Mike] Verille is going to catch the ball and be a cutback runner and Matt Thomas hits the hole at 100 miles per hour," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "That's what ended up happening." Penn's three-pronged rushing attack left its mark, as Ryan led the Penn backfield with 99 rushing yards. Thomas added 43 yards on only seven carries, and while Verille only ran for seven yards, he caught four passes for 42 yards. The score stayed at 10-0 until Penn revisited the endzone with less than six minutes remaining in the contest. Hoffman hit junior tight end Benjamin Zagorski on a quick dump off, and Zagorski ran the ball in from 19 yards out. "Their last touchdown there was a pretty blatant pick from where I was," Lyons said. "I couldn't believe that wasn't called." Much to Lyons' chagrin, no penalty markers were thrown and Penn took a three-possession lead on Hoffman's first touchdown pass as a Quaker. Hoffman finished the day going 23-for-36 for 196 yards with one touchdown pass, two interceptions and a fumble. "He'll play a lot better? once we get up and running and he has a game under his belt and the receivers, as importantly, have a game under their belts," Bagnoli said. Although Penn's offense turned the ball over five times, Dartmouth's only score of the day actually came after a poor punt by sophomore Ryan Lazzeri. Lazerri's 20-yard punt gave Dartmouth the ball at Penn's 35-yard line. On the ninth play of the drive, backup sophomore quarterback Greg Smith hit junior tight end Lee Roach in the endzone for the Big Green's only six points -- their two-point conversion failed. If it wasn't for good field position late in the game, Penn probably would have registered its first opening day shutout since 1982, when the Quakers blanked Dartmouth 21-0 on opening day on their way to an Ivy League title.

Brown, Yale Preseason favorites to challenge Penn for Ivy Title

(09/17/99 9:00am)

Last November the goal posts were torn down at Franklin Field and the Ivy League title returned to West Philadelphia for the first time since 1994. Without Jim Finn's 1,450 rushing yards and Matt Rader's 2,025 passing yards, things may not come as easy the second time around. Repeating is difficult enough as it is -- just ask Harvard, which lost four Ivy League games last year following an undefeated Ivy season -- and there are seven teams waiting to knock Penn from its perch atop the Ancient Eight. In only his second year at Brown, Phil Estes is looking to become the first head coach since '76 to lead the Bears to an Ivy Championship. Brown finished in a tie for second place last year and is projected to be near the top of the Ancient Eight once again. Despite losing first-team All-Ivy wide receiver Sean Morey to graduation and the New England Patriots, the Bears offense is still loaded with weapons, including two more first-team All-Ivy honorees. Senior quarterback James Perry set a school record with 3,165 yards passing in '98, just 20 yards shy of the Ivy record. Perry needs 1,810 yards to break the League record for career passing yards -- a feat he may accomplish in his sixth game of the season at Penn. Perry's main target will be junior wide receiver Stephen Campbell, who caught 61 passes last season for 710 yards. Campbell is also Brown's all-time career punt returner with 518 yards, which were amassed over only two seasons. While Brown's offense was throwing for over 300 yards per game, the Bears pass defense held opponents to under 200 aerial yards per game. Three defensive backs return, including senior captain Azibo Smith, who made 80 tackles last fall, and Jason Lucas, twice named Ivy League Rookie of the Week in 1998. One weak link for Columbia will be inexperience at quarterback. Senior Mike Glynn, juniors Ryan Kiernan and Mark Stoutenberg and sophomore Jeff McCall all will contend for the starting job. Combined, the four quarterbacks have completed three varsity passes. The supporting cast should help ease the transition. Both senior Norman Hayes and sophomore Jonathan Reese gained over 400 yards on the ground last year. Reese was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year not only for his rushing ability but also for his 22.9 yard kickoff return average. Reese was the first Lion in 10 years to win the honor. The defense is led by two second-team All-Ivy choices. Senior inside linebacker Kevin Wright recorded the most tackles for the Lions in 1998 with 82, including eight tackles for a loss. After switching from the tailback position last season, senior captain Jason Bivens anchored the Columbia defense. Used as both an outside linebacker and a rover, Bivens forced four fumbles for the Lions. Hiring Pete Mangurian, an NFL assistant coach under Dan Reeves, did not translate into instant success for Cornell, who is still in a rebuilding process. In Mangurian's first season at the Big Red helm, Cornell's lone Ivy League victory came against Dartmouth by a meager three-point margin. Cornell, however, did win all three of its non-Ivy games, including one against Division I-A Buffalo. The offense returns nine starters but also lacks a quarterback with playing experience. Senior John Algeo has the most experience with 10 career pass attempts but his job will be challenged by three sophomores. Senior halfback Deon Harris, the Big Red's leading rusher from a year ago, returns, as does junior wide receiver Joe Splendorio. Splendorio led Cornell in receptions and receiving yards with 46 and 677, respectively. In 1998, Cornell was awesome against the pass, allowing just 173 yards per game. The problem was that the rushing defense allowed more yardage than the passing defense -- 185.3 yards per game. Last year's 2-8 season was an anomaly for Dartmouth, a perennial Ivy League powerhouse. The Big Green finished 1-6 in the Ivy League, putting them in a tie for last place for only the second time in school history. If the Big Green are to return to Ancient Eight glory, they will need help from their inexperienced starters on offense. In 1998, Dartmouth finished seventh in the Ivy League with 14.2 points per game and last in total offense with 240.2 yards per game. Sophomore Brian Mann is expected to get the nod over fellow sophomore Greg Smith at quarterback. Mann has thrown only 38 career passes but one of them was caught for the first touchdown in Dartmouth history to be thrown by a freshman. Mann, however, will have an experienced backfield. Senior tailback Reginald Belhomme gained 366 yards, which was tops at Dartmouth. Junior fullback Bob Bunn is the Big Green's top returning receiver with 17 receptions. The Dartmouth defense is led by second-team All-Ivy senior linebacker Steve Varney, who led the Big Green in tackles last fall. Although the defensive backfield loses All-Ivy selection Brad Verber, the Big Green still have junior safety Brad Eissler, who led the Ivy League in interceptions with six. After winning all of its Ivy League games in '97, Harvard suffered a major setback in '98 by going 3-4 in league play. Notwithstanding, the Crimson will still have three key components from the '97 squad that will lead Harvard this season. Senior quarterback Rich Linden is second in career passing yards with 4,199 and needs merely 209 more yards to break the record. His 26 consecutive starts dates back to his freshman season, when he completed 58.6 percent of his passes. Another Crimsonite looking for his spot in the Harvard record book is senior running back Chris Menick. Menick needs 713 yards to pass Eion Hu's career rushing record of 3,073 yards. Menick, who missed two games to injury in '98, will need to record numbers like he did in Harvard's championship season -- 1,390 total yards -- to bring the title back to Cambridge. On the other side of the ball, senior inside linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski will lead the defense while trying to become the first player in Crimson history to start all 40 games of his college career. Last season, Kacyvenski did a little bit of everything, leading the Crimson in tackles with 108 while picking off two balls, recovering two fumbles and sacking the quarterback once. Princeton's 1998 campaign was highlighted by the opening of its new stadium. The Tigers finished 4-3 in the Ivy League but had the luxury of playing five of its seven games at Princeton Stadium. The Tigers, like Dartmouth and Columbia, lack a veteran quarterback. Junior Jon Blevins leads the candidates in experience with three career pass attempts. Regardless of who is taking the snaps, the Princeton quarterback will have plenty of people to carry his handoffs and catch his passes. Princeton alternated four rushing backs in '98 -- Nathan McGlothin, Derek Theisen, Damien Taylor and Kyle Brandt -- who rushed for a combined 1,400 yards. The Tigers still have their top receiver in yardage from one year ago, senior Phil Wendler, who had three 100-yard receiving games last year. Although they were last in passing defense last year, Princeton allowed only 72.9 yards rushing per game, giving Princeton the best total defense in the Ivy League. The defense is anchored by senior defensive end David Ferrara, who had 66 tackles and 12 sacks last year. Ferrara's output of 12 sacks gave him 23 for his career and, in turn, the school mark for career sacks. Along with Brown, Yale is expected to challenge Penn for the Ivy League title. After being projected by the media to finish dead last, the Elis proved everyone wrong by going 5-2 in the League, good for a second place tie with Brown. Only one 1998 starter returns to the Yale offensive line, but the Elis' leading passer, leading rusher and three of their top five receivers return. Senior quarterback Joe Walland posed a double threat for opposing defenses by throwing for 1,858 yards and rushing for an additional 348. Junior running back Rashad Bartholomew had the most rushing yards in 1998 of any returning rusher. Bartholomew had the sixth-best rushing game in Yale history against Columbia when he ran for 192 of his 936 yards. The wide receiver corps will be led by the Jakes -- seniors Jake Borden and Jake Fuller -- who combined for 59 receptions and 786 yards in 1998. All four starters return on a defensive line that recorded 27.5 sacks by its four starters. Senior defensive end Peter Sarantos led the pack with 10 sacks, followed by senior defensive tackle Andy Tuzzolino who sacked the quarterback eight times and also led the Elis with 12 tackles for a loss. Todd Tomich and Ben Blake, who each picked off five passes last season, lead the defensive backfield. Blake led the team in solo tackles with 47 and also broke up 11 passes.

Safety Eissler will lead Big Green secondary against the Quakers

(09/16/99 9:00am)

The Dartmouth D-back, who led the Ivy League in interceptions last year, nearly chose to play for Penn in 1997. If it wasn't for the good time Dartmouth junior strong safety Brad Eissler had in Hanover during his recruiting trip, he might be starting in a Penn uniform this coming Saturday. "I had such a blast!" he said. Originally Eissler planned to enter Penn in 1997 but a late visit to Dartmouth caused him to switch from the southernmost to the northernmost Ivy. Before matriculating at Dartmouth, Eissler attended Mainland High School, where he was a cornerback, punt returner and receiver. "I mainly played defense," Eissler said. "I just filled in once in a while on offense." The Linwood, N.J., native played on the 1995 Cape Atlantic League Championship-winning Mainland High squad. The team also won the Group III state championship in 1995 and 1996. For Eissler, there were no drawbacks to playing for an Ivy League school because he did not receive any football scholarship offers. When it came time to make a decision, Penn was high on his list of schools, which included a handful of other Ivy League institutions. Eissler's initial desire to go to college in Philadelphia makes sense since he grew up in South Jersey and is an avid fan of Philadelphia's Phillies, Eagles and 76ers. But what about the Broad Street Bullies? "I'm down with the Flyers," Eissler said. Despite his love for Philadelphia sports and desire to play for the Red and Blue, Eissler was wooed by Dartmouth, where he was moved to the safety position on the junior varsity team as a freshman. It wasn't until his sophomore year that he emerged as one of the few bright spots in Dartmouth's 2-8 season. Not only was he a standout in Hanover, but he also earned an honorable mention All-Ivy selection. In only his first year at the varsity level, Eissler led the entire Ivy League with six interceptions, the first of which came in last season's home opener against the Red and Blue. His first college highlight was timely as well. Already trailing 10-0 halfway through the second quarter, Eissler intercepted a Matt Rader pass on the Big Green's six-yard line to keep the Quakers lead at 10. When he finished the season with six interceptions, Eissler fell one pick shy of the school record set by Lloyd Lee in 1997. The Government major averaged 13.8 yards per interception return and scored the only Big Green defensive touchdown of the season, when he returned a pass from Brown quarterback James Perry for a 35-yard touchdown. Eissler also made seven tackles in his college debut against Penn, en route to 83 tackles for the season -- third best on the team. His accolades as a sophomore made him an easy choice for Dartmouth's Doten Award, which is given to a sophomore who has "made a significant contribution to the success of the varsity football team." Although the Red and Blue know first hand why Eissler was worthy of the Doten Award, Penn is not about to rearrange its offensive agenda because of one player. "I heard [Eissler's] a pretty good player and a heady guy but I'm not going to shy away from him at all," Penn quarterback Gavin Hoffman said. "I'm not too worried about specific defensive personnel right now. I'm more worried about the [defensive] schemes. I'll worry more about personnel in the later games this season." Hoffman, a Northwestern transfer, is making his Ivy League debut this weekend just like Eissler did one year ago. This time Eissler's role will be to lead the defensive backfield in an attempt to shut down the former Big 10 quarterback. "We know [the Quakers] have a new quarterback but we haven't seen him," Dartmouth head coach John Lyons said. "We don't know much about [Hoffman], so it does present a challenge." As one of only five starters returning on defense, Eissler will have to be up to the challenge, if Dartmouth's defense -- worst in the Ivies in total yardage in '98 -- is going to stop Hoffman. Just think -- instead of having the responsibility of keeping Hoffman in check, Eissler would be welcoming him as a new teammate, if not for a fateful trip to Hanover in the spring of 1997.

Softball ends with most wins since '81

(04/28/99 9:00am)

The Quakers swept a boubleheader on Saturday against Brown to finish the year 4-8 in the Ivies. By winning two games in its final weekend of the season, the Penn softball team earned the second most wins in the history of the program -- 15. Penn's 1999 season ended Monday when the Quakers (15-22, 4-8 Ivy League) returned home to play their third doubleheader in as many days against St. Joseph's (30-24-1), dropping both games by the scores of 8-1 and 8-3. Penn spent the previous two days playing Ivy League rivals in New England. Despite being swept at Yale (23-19-1, 3-7) last Saturday, 6-0 and 7-3, the Quakers bounced back the following afternoon with a dramatic sweep of Brown (11-27, 2-8) to finish their Ivy season at 4-8, the program's first four Ivy wins since 1997. At the onset of the Brown doubleheader, things looked like a repeat of Saturday's games at Yale. The Bears hit Penn pitcher Michelle Zaptin hard in the first game, scoring one run in the first inning and two in the second. With a runner in scoring position and two out in the bottom of the second inning, Penn coach Carol Kashow wasted no time going to her No. 1 pitcher, Suzanne Arbogast, even though Arbogast was slated to pitch the second game of the doubleheader. "Our last Ivy games were more important than the St. Joe's games [the next day] so we didn't want to hold back," Kashow said. Arbogast got the final out of the inning, leaving the Quakers behind by only three runs. Normally a three-run deficit is insurmountable for a team that averages 2.8 runs per game but the Quakers were wearing their rally caps Sunday. The Quakers' offense came alive in the fourth inning, which started with three consecutive Penn hits, topped off by a Jaime Hojdila RBI double. By the inning's end, the Quakers led 4-3. Although the Bears never regained the lead, they knotted the game 4-4 in the fifth inning. Penn first baseman Kari Dennis broke the tie in the last inning with an RBI single, giving Penn its 14th win of the season. "Everyone contributed in Florida which made for a successful trip," Kashow said. "We lost that in the middle [of the season] but once we started doing that again we won in a flurry." The Red and Blue refused to remove their rally caps for the second game of the Brown doubleheader, as they once again battled back to win in Providence, R.I. This time Brown took a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning when Penn third baseman Jen Moore led off the inning with a double. Subsequently, Penn shortstop Sherryl Fodera singled Moore home to tie the game. The Quakers continued to pour it on in the sixth inning. After taking a 4-2 lead, Molly Meehan put the icing on the cake with a two-run double, increasing Penn's lead to 6-2. The Bears responded with one run in the bottom half of the inning, but they were shut down in the seventh. Arbogast pitched a complete game -- for a total of 12 1/3 innings in one afternoon -- to earn her ninth victory of the season and her second of the day. Arbogast's performance on the mound, along with Penn's success at the plate, led the Quakers to their 15th win of the year. Penn's winningest season came in 1981, when the Red and Blue won 18 games en route to their only Ivy League championship.

Leps host Softball

(04/21/99 9:00am)

After sweeping its first doubleheader of the season Sunday against Dartmouth, the Penn softball team travels to Lafayette this afternoon looking to continue its winning streak. And the Quakers should do exactly that. With a 4-30 record, Lafayette is the worst team on paper the Quakers have played to date. Moreover, Penn soundly defeated the Leopards 5-1 and 3-0 last season, accounting for two of Penn's six victories against Division I schools. "We can't afford to look past anyone and that's our mentality right now," junior outfielder Heather Finley said. "We're going to come out and play hard no matter what anyone's record is." Playing hard was what helped the Quakers break out of a five-game losing streak against Dartmouth last Sunday. The Penn offense showed signs that it was returning to form one day earlier when the Quakers registered eight hits in the second game of the doubleheader against Harvard. On Sunday, the Red and Blue were practically an offensive juggernaut, scoring eight runs in two games -- more runs than they tallied in the previous nine games combined. "Everyone contributed more as a team and we were more aggressive at the plate," freshman third baseman Jen Moore said. Penn should be able to continue its aggressive ways at the plate today when the Quakers face off against the subpar Lafayette pitchers. The Leopards' three-member pitching staff has a combined earned run average of 7.08. Moreover, the threesome has combined for a total of only 48 strikeouts in 34 games this season. To put that in perspective, Penn pitcher Suzanne Arbogast alone has 57 strikeouts in her 15 starts. "I expect we'll put the ball in play pretty hard," Penn coach Carol Kashow said. "We're looking confident like we did when we were down in Florida." While the Quakers hope their bats continue to rejuvenate, the Penn hurlers should have no problem keeping the team in the ball game as they have been doing most of the season. Believe it or not, Lafayette's hitting may be even more lackluster than its pitching. The team batting average is .197 and the Leopards are averaging only 1.82 runs per game. Lafayette has been held to five hits or less in 20 of its 34 games, including no-hitters by Drexel and Seton Hall. "We don't want to waste a lot of pitches on a team that's not hitting well," Kashow said. "We want to go after them with a lot of fastballs." Penn did just that in last year's doubleheader, when it limited the Lafayette batters to five total hits in a complete game four-hitter by current ace Arbogast and a one-hit shutout by then-freshman Lee Pepe, who is no longer with the team. A repeat of last year's Lafayette sweep would increase the Quakers' winning streak to four games as they enter their final weekend of Ivy league action at Yale and Brown.

Softball to face two Ivy foes

(04/16/99 9:00am)

The Quakers are still looking for their first win in league play during Carol Kasshow's tenure. Penn softball coach Carol Kashow perfectly summed up the current state of her team in one short sentence: "Right now we have this huge Ivy monkey on our back." Since Kashow's tenure began last season, the Quakers have gone 0-16 against Ivy League opponents, including an 0-4 start to their league season this year. Tomorrow, Penn (9-16, 0-4 Ivy League) continues its quest for an Ivy League win against Harvard (12-12, 4-0) at 1 p.m. on Warren Field. The following day, Penn hosts Dartmouth (8-15, 2-2) at the same place and time. In Penn's first four Ancient Eight games, the Quakers have managed just three runs while hitting .122 as a team. This means that Penn is just half as successful at the plate in Ivy games versus non-Ivy games -- out of conference, the Quakers are hitting .242. "Last year [hitting] was a problem overall," Kashow said. "This year, out of the league, we scored runs. There's really no reason why we don't score runs in the Ivy League." And according to Kashow, the other Ivy League pitchers are not even superior to the those the Quakers have faced this season; Penn has just failed to produce against them. "We faced a couple of tough pitchers in Florida and the pitcher from Drexel [Lori Swanson] is one of the best in our region when she's on her game," Kashow said. Acknowledging the problem is coming from within, the Quakers have been trying to remedy the situation in practice this week in preparation for this weekend's games. Normally when the team scrimmages in practice, innings start with runners already on base to put pressure on the defense. This week, however, Kashow has changed things up given Penn's recent inability to manufacture runs. "In [Wednesday's] practice, we didn't put runners on base, but made the [players] get runners on and move them along," Kashow said. Penn will see if the new types of scrimmages help when Harvard, the defending Ivy League champion, comes to town on Saturday. "A lot of times if a team is coming in and they are stronger than you on paper, they will look past you," Kashow said. "I think that is one thing Harvard won't do because their coach is a pretty savvy coach and she won't let them look past us." If last year is any indication, the Crimson will not be looking past Penn. Eventual-champion Harvard could have focused ahead on a season-ending doubleheader with contender Cornell; instead, the Crimson showed no mercy, allowing the Quakers just five hits in the two games, winning 5-0 and 2-0. "Harvard was aggressive at the plate," Kashow said. "As soon as the ball got to the outfield, they were looking to go for two bases." Harvard has continued its winning ways in Ivy competition this season, going undefeated so far. The Crimson swept doubleheaders against Yale and Brown last weekend. If Penn cannot get over the hump against the Crimson, it will get another chance on Sunday against Dartmouth. In the last two years Penn has had its greatest Ancient Eight success against Dartmouth. Last year's 9-4 loss to the Big Green marked the only time Penn scored more than one run in a league game. Moreover, Penn's last Ivy victory was a 5-3 win over Dartmouth in the last game of the 1997 season. The Red and Blue also ended their campaign with Dartmouth in 1998. The Big Green swept the doubleheader 11-1 and 9-4 to leave Penn with a winless Ivy League record. "We had lost 10 Ivy games, and it was an ugly, rainy day and that's the way we played," Kashow said. The weather forecast calls for rain on Sunday, but unlike last year, maybe the rain will wash away that proverbial monkey that sits on Penn's back.

Softball has fitting opponent

(04/08/99 9:00am)

In the midst of a six-game skid, the Penn softball team finds itself playing perhaps the perfect opponent. Since starting the season 8-7, the team has dropped six consecutive games in doubleheaders against Delaware, Princeton and Drexel. In those six games, the Quakers (8-13) have managed only five runs. "Delaware had some decent pitching and Drexel had very good pitching and we struggled with that," Penn coach Carol Kashow said. "Lehigh is not a bad team for us to play. I think we match up well against them." Given Penn's lack of offensive output in recent weeks, the Engineers (11-15) -- who visit Warren Field today at 3:30 p.m. -- may prove to be a favorable opponent because pitching is not their strong suit. Lacking clearcut No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers, all four Lehigh pitchers have started at least three games this season. Collectively, batters are hitting .298 against the Engineers' hurlers, whereas Penn opponents are batting .283. On paper, Lehigh's best pitcher seems to be freshman Stephanie Howell. Howell has started all 10 of her appearances and has a team-low 2.63 earned run average. However, Howell has only recorded 21 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings pitched. "If you have a kid getting many strikeouts for you that makes it easier on the defense," Kashow said. Given the mediocrity of the Engineers pitching staff, Lehigh certainly makes up for it at bat. Junior centerfielder Tara Stine and classmate Stephanie Rapel, who plays rightfield, lead an offense that scores a shade over four runs per game. Hitting .315, Rapel leads the team with 20 runs batted in, five triples and two doubles. On defense, she has committed only one error, good for a fielding percentage of .987 that is the best among Lehigh's everyday players. Stine, the Engineers' leadoff hitter, leads the Lehigh assault with her combination of power and speed. As a leadoff hitter, it comes as no surprise that she paces the team with 17 stolen bases. Moreover, she is yet to be caught stealing. "The idea with anyone who has been stealing a lot of bases is to work really hard to keep them off base," Kashow said. "If Stine does get on, we're going to have to throw her out the first time, so she thinks twice about trying it again." As if her speed isn't enough of a threat, she has the potential to go yard -- she's already hit three home runs this season. Her .350 batting average and .488 slugging percentage also lead the Engineers. "'Stiney's a good ballplayer," Kashow said. "I tried to recruit her to Temple when I was there." Last season, Penn and Lehigh split a doubleheader in Bethlehem, Pa. Lehigh took the first game when Penn pitcher Suzanne Arbogast threw a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth to give Lehigh a 3-2 victory. Arbogast, however, didn't have to wait until this season to exact revenge, as she pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief in the second game. The Quakers were tied going into the seventh, scored two runs to take the lead and held on for a 5-4 Arbogast win. Arbogast missed her start last Saturday against Drexel with a stomach virus but she is feeling better and will be pitching today along with junior pitcher Michelle Zaptin. Pitching is not Kashow's primary concern right now as she has spent most of this week's practice trying to simulate game-like situations. "In practice we've been creating the types of situations in which we've been making mistakes, particularly under game conditions with runners on and having the responsibility of moving runners," Kashow said. "There's no reason why we shouldn't come out strong, end this mini-slump we're in and turn things around before we go on the road this weekend."

Softball can't pull out a win

(04/05/99 9:00am)

Although the Penn softball team stayed close in two of four games, if fell to both Princeton and Drexel. Thursday, Penn coach Carol Kashow said that Lori Swanson "is one of the best pitchers in our region." Saturday, the Drexel pitcher lived up to the hype. However, before the Quakers fell 9-1 and 4-0 to the Swanson-led Dragons, Penn opened the weekend with 3-2 and 14-1 losses to archrival Princeton. In Penn's first Ivy League game of the season, Quakers hurler Suzanne Arbogast squared off against Sarah Peterman, last week's Ivy League Pitcher of the Week. Princeton (11-14, 2-0 Ivy League) scored first on a solo home run by Kim Veenstra and then added two more runs in the fourth. Although Penn (8-13, 0-2) trailed 3-0 going into the sixth inning, Arbogast, who tossed a complete game and only gave up five hits, pitched well enough to keep the Quakers alive. The Red and Blue finally crossed the plate in the top of the sixth, when leadoff hitter Clarisa Apostol doubled in sophomore Christine Fenyus. Then, Jaime Hojdila walked and Jen Moore singled to load the bases. With the bases loaded, Princeton catcher Devon Keefe allowed a pitch to get by her, advancing all the baserunners and cutting the Tigers' lead to 3-2. However, with runners on second and third, the Quakers were unable to get the ball out of the infield as Sherryl Fodera grounded out and Jamie Pallas hit a fly ball to the shortstop. Penn went three-up, three-down in the seventh inning to give Princeton a 3-2 victory. "We put ourselves in a position to come from behind and win," Kashow said. "I don't have a problem playing a game well and not winning because that's a step in the right direction." Unfortunately for the Quakers, everything fell apart in the second game. Princeton catcher Vicki Siesta hit a grand slam in the third inning and a three-run dinger in the fourth to account for seven of the Tigers' 14 runs. "We had mistakes that led to unearned runs and the score just blossomed," Kashow said. "We gave them runs. We can't go around playing Santa Claus in the Ivy League and expect to get anywhere." The Quakers tried to take more of a Scrooge approach the following afternoon when they hosted Drexel. Nevertheless, it was Drexel which came out firing on all cylinders. Two first-inning runs off Penn junior pitcher Michelle Zaptin gave Drexel a lead it would never relinquish. The Dragons (14-10) continued to pour it on in the third inning. Zaptin walked three consecutive batters to lead off the inning; by the time the Quakers had retired the side, Drexel led 6-0. Penn scored its lone run of the game after Apostol reached base on an error with two outs in the bottom of the third. After Apostol took second on a passed ball, sophomore Hojdila hit a scorcher that just eluded Drexel centerfielder Alicia Good to drive Apostol home. With a 6-1 lead going into the fourth inning, Drexel coach Ray Perri strategically removed Swanson so he could use his ace in the second game as well. "I thought Arbogast was going to pitch the second game so I figured I'd take Lori [Swanson] out and put her back in [the second game]," Perri said. It turns out Perri's strategy to neutralize Arbogast -- Penn's No. 1 pitcher -- was futile because Arbogast did not pitch the second game due to a stomach virus. Drexel went on to win the first game 9-1 in five innings, thanks to the mercy rule, and came back with Swanson -- who gave up only one hit and struck out five in three innings of work in the first game -- to start the second. With Arbogast out, Kashow gave freshman pitcher Kate Hanlon the nod for her first career start. After giving up two runs in the first inning, Hanlon settled down and did not surrender a hit in the next three. "Kate came back in the second game and did a marvelous job against a team that can certainly get a hold of the ball," Kashow said. "She kept us in the game the whole time." Despite Hanlon's quality pitching performance, Penn was unable to generate any offense against Swanson. Swanson pitched five innings of no-hit softball in the second game before Laura Tynio took over in relief. "Lori [Swanson] just has a couple of pitches that are really tough to hit," Perri said. "She's got a good rise ball and a good screwball." Penn junior Kari Dennis singled off Tynio to open the sixth but it would be the Quakers' only hit of the game. Drexel scored an insurance run in each of the fifth and sixth innings to claim a 4-0 victory against its University City neighbors. True to Kashow's prediction, Swanson turned in a spectacular performance. Her stats against the Quakers would make any Rotisserie softball fan drool -- two wins, no earned runs and 10 strikeouts while allowing just one hit.

NOTEBOOK: Softball awaits a whole new Ivy season

(03/31/99 10:00am)

Nearly halfway through its 1999 season, the Penn softball team begins Ivy League play this Friday at Princeton. That's a good thing, right? Not so fast. Although many Penn teams look forward to the Ivy League portion of their schedules, the Ivy League did not treat Penn too kindly in the softball world last season. For starters, the Quakers went 0-12 in their six Ivy doubleheaders -- only Columbia does not have a varsity squad. What was more astounding was Penn's inability to manufacture runs. In the Quakers' first four Ivy games, they were held scoreless by Cornell and Princeton. "We would be really sporadic getting baserunners," sophomore tri-captain Kari Feinberg said. "We also had a hard time getting timely hits with runners in scoring position." In its third Ivy League doubleheader, Penn finally scored after 28 innings without a run. Nevertheless, the Quakers managed only one run in each of the next four games en route to a total of nine runs in 12 Ancient Eight contests. "We had a hard time scoring runs throughout the season," coach Carol Kashow said. "We struggled both inside and outside the Ivy League." Last season, Penn averaged 2.16 runs per game entering Ivy League action. This year that number has climbed to 3.53. "We've proven we can score runs and put hits together," Kashow said. "We're more confident whether we're on defense or in the batter's box. "Last year we played afraid and we lost sometimes because we were afraid. I don't think anyone's afraid anymore. They all want to compete." So if this season's increased offensive output is a relevant indicator, the Quakers should be more successful against their Ivy League foes. · Although Penn only scored nine runs against the six other Ivy League varsity softball teams, the Quakers pounded Columbia who, alas, is only a club team. Last year, Penn swept its double header against the Lions with 10-2 and 23-0 victories. The Lions were supposed to enter the Ivy League with a varsity program this year but the process was delayed and Columbia will play its inaugural varsity softball season in 2000. · Kashow is only in her second season at the helm of the softball program but her presence is already being felt. Building a competitive program takes time and Kashow is pleased with the progress her troops have made the last two seasons. "The program is better in many ways," Kashow said. "First, there's the team on the field. This year's version is much better." Another important facet Kashow alluded to is recruiting, which she feels has gone very well for both the classes of 2002 and 2003. The effects of Kashow's first freshman class are obvious. Three of the four players who have started every game thus far for the Quakers are freshmen third baseman Jen Moore, leftfielder Clarisa Apostol and second baseman Jamie Pallas. Moreover, Apostol and Moore lead the team in batting with .364 and .333 averages, respectively. Moore also leads the team with a .569 slugging percentage and is tied with senior shortstop Sherryl Fodera for the team lead with 13 runs batted in. "They're willing to work hard and have great athletic ability," Feinberg said. "I look forward to next year's class because the quality of this class shows the kind of player Carol [Kashow] can bring in." In her two-year tenure, Kashow has also worked to re-establish relations with softball alumni and her players have made a huge effort during the offseason to fundraise for the team's spring trip by selling concessions at football and men's basketball games. "I'm pleased with the steps we've taken and we're starting to see results," Kashow said about the success of the softball program since she came to Penn. "You have to learn to walk before you run," Kashow said. "Last year, we were at a crawl. Now we're walking."

Improved hitting and pitching have Softball winning

(03/24/99 10:00am)

With Sunday's 9-3 win over Rider, the Penn softball team finished the day above .500 for the first time in coach Carol Kashow's two-year tenure at Penn. After starting last season 0-8, the Quakers never came closer than five games from the .500 plateau. This weekend, the Quakers (8-7) look to continue their winning ways in doubleheaders against Delaware and Wagner. Last season Penn did not play Wagner and split with the Blue Hens. The Quakers dropped the opener of the doubleheader 4-0 but bounced back in the nightcap with a 3-1 win. The victory was junior pitcher Suzanne Arbogast's fifth of the '98 season. If she defeats Delaware again this season, it will, yet again, be her fifth win of the season. "Sue pitches well when she's mixing her pitches and throws them hard," Kashow said. "She likes to throw a rise ball, which you have to throw hard or the ball just hangs up there." · Penn's offense has been rejuvenated this season, as the Quakers' are hitting .276 through their first 15 games. Last year, Penn hit just .211. "We're just looking for good at-bats from everyone," Kashow said. "For example, on Sunday, Jaime Hojdila --batting in the two spot -- had a perfect bunt to move the runner over [to second base]. There are five more ways of scoring a runner from second base than first base." With all the added production, many Quakers are on record-setting paces this season. Both freshman third baseman Jen Moore and senior shortstop Sherryl Fodera are on pace to break the single-season Penn record for runs batted in. The record was set by Fodera in her sophomore season when she drove in 25 runs. Currently Fodera leads the team with 13 RBIs and Moore has 12, putting them both on track to surpass 30 for the season. "It stems from hard work in the off-season," Kashow said. "We're more comfortable in the batter's box from working so hard." Another Penn mark that may be broken is the record for runs in a single season. In 1980, Sharon Gross scored 27 times for the Red and Blue. Both Fodera and freshman outfielder Clarisa Apostol have 11 runs scored and are on pace to finish the season with 29. · Another area of improvement for Penn is its pitching depth. Last season Arbogast accounted for seven of the team's 10 wins, leaving the rest of the pitching staff with a combined three wins. This season, Penn has found itself a suitable second starter. While Arbogast has continued to pitch well, junior outfielder and pitcher Michelle Zaptin has already won four games for the Quakers, including a 3-0 shutout against La Salle last weekend. "[Pitching depth] is very important because you feel like you don't have to carry the load yourself, so you can go out and throw your own game," Kashow said. "Then you don't have to worry about the next game and you can focus on getting one game done at a time." · Although Penn's team batting average is 27 points higher than the opponents -- .276 compared to .249 -- the Quakers' on base percentage is lower. Penn batters reach base 34.8 percent of the time, whereas the opposition is at 35.7 percent. This discrepancy exists because Penn pitchers have walked 16 more batters and opposing batters have been hit by three more pitches. "We walked a fair amount of people in Florida," Kashow said. "We played one doubleheader where we walked 13 people. We haven't walked nearly as many lately. "We are always going to have some walks, so I just tell my players it's not the first 60 feet that count, but the last 60 feet." On a positive note, the opposition's average of .249 against the Quakers is much improved from last year's Penn opponent's average of .301.

Softball: Feeding off freshmen

(03/19/99 10:00am)

After finishing last season at a disappointing 10-29 -- including a 0-12 record against Ivy League opponents -- the Penn softball team has the potential to become the first Penn softball team since 1984 to finish with a winning record. How? The answer is simple: freshmen contributions and upperclassmen dedication. Five freshman have started games regularly so far this season. In fact, three freshmen -- third baseman Jen Moore, left fielder Clarisa Apostol and second baseman Jamie Pallas -- have started every Penn game this spring. Outfielder Lindsay Wagner and catcher Molly Meehan, who are also freshmen, have started a majority of the games in their rookie season as well. "[Coach] Carol [Kashow] brought in an awesome freshmen class, not only in physical ability but in personality," senior shortstop Sherryl Fodera said. Not only have these freshmen been starting but they've been helping the Quakers where they need it most. Last year, Penn was plagued by poor hitting and an inability to manufacture runs. The collective team batting average was a mere .211, and opponents maintained a 2.21 earned runs average against Penn over the course of the 1998 season. Sparked by the offensive prowess of the Class of 2002, the 1999 campaign has seen a remarkable rise in numbers. With Moore, Apostol and Pallas batting .368, .364 and .320, respectively, Penn's team batting average is .273 this season. Last year, only one starter kept her batting average above this year's team average of .273. Moreover, not a single Quaker had a batting average above the magic .300 mark. In addition to the freshmen bats, Fodera's 1999 success has also raised the Quakers' average. Fodera is currently batting .303 and her two home runs and 10 RBIs have already eclipsed last season's totals. Her statistics dropped last season after she was named first team All-Ivy in 1997, when she batted .425 and set a Penn record for RBIs in a single season with 25. "She's been more relaxed due to the realization that she doesn't have to do it all by herself," Kashow said. As one of only two seniors, a lot of leadership responsibility falls on Fodera's shoulders. "She is naturally a leader by the things she does," Kashow said. "She is mindful of everyone and their role on the team, which helps with team chemistry." Other upperclassmen in the starting lineup include sophomore tri-captain Kari Feinberg, the designated hitter; junior first baseman Kari Dennis, who splits time with sophomore Christine Fenyus; and sophomore outfielder Jaime Hojdila. The quality pitching performances of junior tri-captain pitcher Suzanne Arbogast have been equally as important as the increased scoring punch in the season's first few weeks. The only returning pitcher from the 1998 roster, Arbogast has been the team's No. 1 pitcher since opening day, starting eight out of 12 games so far. In her first eight outings, Arbogast has seen an improvement in her numbers as well. While holding her opponents to an even .200 batting average, Arbogast has lowered last season's 5.01 ERA to 2.28. "She had the natural ability as a freshman and sophomore but with her work ethic she's really matured into her role," Kashow said. The No. 2 starter for the Red and Blue is sophomore tri-captain Michelle Zaptin, who plays centerfield when she's not starting on the mound. Freshmen Kate Hanlon and junior southpaw Allyson Emond, who have both pitched in relief situations this season, round out the pitching staff. The great influx of youth in the form of seven freshman is not the only reason for Penn's early season success. A large part also stems from the off-season work ethic of the upperclassmen. NCAA regulations allow players to practice independently for two hours a week during the off-season -- and the Quakers took full advantage. That hard work is beginning to pay dividends. On this date last year, the team was 1-8 after returning from its spring break trip to Florida. Now they have a .500 record after Wednesday's double-header split with Villanova. "Everyone's expectations are really high," Fodera said. "The freshmen are all about winning. They're used to winning, so they expect to win." Apparently, the freshmen spirit is contagious as the whole team has shown dedication to making 1999 Penn's first winning season in 15 years.

W. Hoops tries to play spoiler

(03/03/99 10:00am)

Usually when a team is out of contention for the league title, it is playing simply for pride. That, however, is not the case when the Penn women's basketball team travels to Princeton tonight for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff at Jadwin Gymnasium. The Quakers are playing for more than just pride -- they're hoping to spoil their archrival's chances of making its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Although Princeton won a share of the 1985 title, they lost to Brown in the tiebreaker, sending the Bears to the NCAAs. After winning four Ivy titles in a row from 1975 to 1978, Princeton hasn't won an outright title in 21 years. Up until 1982, when the Ivy League began round robin play in women's basketball, there were only six teams in the league and they played a post-season tournament to determine the Ancient Eight's NCAA representative. Therefore, Princeton's last outright title came before the Ivy regular season winner received an automatic NCAA Tournament bid. "Out of Princeton and Dartmouth, I want Dartmouth to go [to the NCAA tournament]," sophomore forward Diana Caramanico said. "I think [Dartmouth] would do the best job because Dartmouth is a better team." With Dartmouth's win at Harvard last night, a Penn victory would force the Tigers to play a tiebreaker against the Big Green. "I think it's motivation, especially against a team like Princeton," Penn coach Julie Soriero said. "There's an intense rivalry. Knowing we can spoil the party for them makes it very special." A win tonight would give Penn sole possession of third place in the Ivies, whereas a loss would mean a third-place tie with Brown and Harvard. But the Quakers also have the opportunity to avenge a 67-58 overtime loss to Princeton (16-9, 11-2 Ivy League) at the Palestra on January 4. The Quakers controlled a close contest for most of that game. There were a total of 16 lead changes in the game and no team led by more than six points during regulation. Nevertheless, Penn (11-14, 7-6) held a small lead through most of the game, especially in the second half. Over the last seven minutes, the Quakers never trailed but could never pull ahead by more than four. "We had the ball and a chance to go up by six down the stretch but we didn't run the cleanest offense," Soriero said. "I'd like to think at this point in the season we're more confident in our strengths." Princeton sent the game into overtime when junior guard Maggie Langlas, who netted 23 points on the evening, drove to the hoop to tie the game with 6.6 remaining. The Tigers started the extra session with an 11-0 run while their stellar defense kept Penn from mounting a comeback. Giving up a mere 54.4 points per outing, the Tigers' scoring defense is ranked first in the Ivy League by almost eight points per game. Moreover, their scoring defense is ranked third in the nation. Princeton certainly showed its defensive capabilities in its last showdown with the Quakers, holding them to 58 points in 45 minutes of play. The Quakers committed 19 turnovers and were held to a .313 shooting percentage, including 0-of-8 shooting in overtime. "I think we need to execute better on offense than we did last time," Soriero said. "I really believe that if we can score 60 to 65 points we can beat Princeton. Nobody scores that much on them because [the opponent] gets lulled into a lazy game." The "lulling" stems from Princeton's slow-down offensive style, which utilizes the entire shot clock. But Soriero believes the Quakers will be ready for Princeton's system this time. "I think we'll play a little more zone defense than last time to try to take away some of their backdoor cuts and not get lackadaisical on defense," Soriero said. "Maybe if we make some adjustments in our zone, we can come out and challenge their shooters." Since that Princeton showdown, Penn has gone 9-6, including a 4-1 run in its last five games. The Red and Blue are eager to show their long-time rival just how good they have been playing, as they try to split the season series with the Tigers. More importantly, Penn can also ruin Princeton's chance to finally make the Big Dance.

Quakers hold off Big Red threat

(03/01/99 10:00am)

Two more wins for the Penn men's basketball team, but just barely. After Penn's 87-48 drubbing of Columbia on Friday, senior forward Paul Romanczuk eagerly anticipated his final Palestra appearance, which would come the following day. "It will be special tomorrow," he said. If only he knew. Unlike the previous night, Penn -- a 19-point favorite -- needed Jed Ryan's sharpshooting and Romanczuk's inside dominance to avoid disaster and squeak by Cornell 83-81. Penn's sixth Ivy League weekend sweep of the season clinched at least a share of the Ivy League title for the Quakers. Penn (20-5, 12-1 Ivy League) has a one-game lead on Princeton (20-6, 11-2) with one game remaining -- tomorrow's showdown at Jadwin Gymnasium. Since losing to the Tigers on February 9, the Quakers have won six consecutive Ivy League games, putting themselves in position to earn their first NCAA bid in four years. Not even last weekend's 81-76 win at Harvard was as down to the wire as Saturday night's contest with Cornell (11-5, 6-8). After a sluggish start on Senior Night that saw the Quakers trail by as many as five early, before Penn took its first lead of the game at 16-14. After trading baskets, Penn led 18-16, but then Cornell caught fire from behind the arc. Cornell closed out the half on a 24-12 run thanks to six three-pointers, including three from sophomore forward Ray Mercedes. "We needed to come in and have a good shooting night, especially after last night's game [against Princeton]," Cornell coach Scott Thompson said. "When Ray Mercedes is focused, he's a very good player, and he was into it tonight." Mercedes, who had a mere .292 three-point shooting percentage entering the weekend, had a season-high night, hitting 6-of-10 from downtown en route to a 28-point performance. Mercedes continued to pose a scoring threat in the second half, with 12 points, but it was Ryan who stole the show with his frenzy of treys. Down 52-42 with over 13 minutes left in the game, Ryan hit a shot that cut the lead to single digits, and that was only the beginning. In each of the Quakers' next three possessions, Ryan drained three pointers to cut Penn's deficit down to four points. The game went back and forth for the next nine minutes, with three tied scores and two lead changes. With 1:33 remaining, sophomore guard Kevin Cuttica hit a trey to increase Cornell's lead to 79-75. The shot was immediately matched by Penn junior guard Michael Jordan's three-pointer which cut the Big Red's lead back to one. A blocked shot by junior center Geoff Owens gave the ball back to the Quakers. Jordan, who finished the night with 21 points, was fouled during the ensuing possession and hit both free throws to put Penn up 80-79. After Cornell came up empty again, Owens was fouled and went to the line shooting two. Then it was Romanczuk who proved to be unstoppable. After making his first free throw, Owens missed the second, but Romanczuk grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked it out to Jordan, who was fouled to stop the clock. With a two-point lead and 9.5 seconds left on the clock, Penn now had an opportunity to make it a two-possession game. Jordan, however, was unable to capitalize, missing both free throws. But Romanczuk came down with the rebound yet again. "I think the rebounding was the difference in the game," Thompson said. "Romanczuk works so hard and I love that about him. Owens did a good job on the boards too. Those two guys did a really good job getting offensive boards." Both Cornell and Penn grabbed 26 defensive rebounds, but Penn outrebounded Cornell 21-6 on the offensive glass. Following Romanczuk's second consecutive offensive rebound, Ryan was fouled when he received the ball. With only 6.9 second remaining, he sunk both shots to give Penn a 83-79 lead, effectively icing the game. "They were playing with a lot of emotion but we matched it at the right times," Ryan said. "It was great for Paul and I to pull it out at the end and get out of here with a win tonight." Ryan scored 21 in the Quakers' 12th Ivy League win of the season. Romanczuk broke the 20-point barrier as well, recording his fifth double-double of the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds. In stark contrast to Saturday's barnburner, Friday night's contest against Columbia (10-16, 5-9) was anything but classic. Thanks to senior forward Justin Namolik's 11 first-half points and senior guard Gary Raimondo's 10 points and four steals, the Lions were able to stay within striking distance and only trailed 38-29 at the half. Once the second half started, it was all downhill for Columbia. Led by sophomore guard Lamar Plummer's nine second-half points, Penn outscored the Lions 49-19 in the second half, giving the Quakers a 87-48 victory -- their largest margin of victory on the season. In fact, the Quakers' five losses have been by a combined total of 38 points, which is one less than the margin of Columbia's loss on Friday night alone. The most significant moment of the second half came when Owens blocked his 52nd shot of the season. That rejection broke Penn's record for blocks in a season, which was set by Hassan Duncombe in 1988-89. "[Owens is] probably the best shot blocker I've ever played with," Romanczuk said. "He's such a good defensive presence. With him in there we can gamble a little bit, maybe go for a steal here or there." "He's a terrific kid and I'm not surprised at anything he accomplishes at this point," Penn coach Fran Dunphy added. Featuring one massacre and one nail-biter, the only similarity between this weekend's games was that Penn won both. After winning a memorable home finale on Senior Night, the seniors only unfinished business is earning their first NCAA bid. They'll get their chance tomorrow night.