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W. Hoops still Ivy dreamin'

(02/26/99 10:00am)

The Quakers still have an outside shot at their first Ivy League title ever. Do you believe in magic? Penn's women's basketball fans better if they want their team to win its first Ivy League title. Winning the title would require Penn to run the table in its final three games, including its showdown at Princeton next Wednesday. The Quakers are fully capable of doing this, but they also need Princeton to lose both of its games this weekend. Meanwhile, Dartmouth would have to lose two of its last three. After closing out its 1998-99 home season on a high note last weekend, Penn is looking to keep its title hopes alive when they travel to New York this weekend. The Quakers open the weekend at Columbia (5-18, 2-10 Ivy League) tonight at 7 p.m. Twenty-four hours later Penn will tipoff in Ithaca, N.Y., against Cornell (10-14, 4-8). If history is any indication, the weekend looks bright for Penn (10-13, 6-5). The Quakers already swept the Cornell-Columbia weekend at the Palestra back in late January by the scores of 71-68 and 87-71, respectively. Both of those games, like nearly all of Penn's Ivy League games this season, were dominated by sophomore forward Diana Caramanico and junior guard Mandy West. "They complement each other because if Diana is dominant inside, it opens up the perimeter a little more for Mandy," Penn coach Julie Soriero said. "Likewise, if Mandy is doing a really good job from the perimeter, it opens up the inside a little more for Diana." Both West and Caramanico each had one 30-point night in Penn's previous matchups with their Ivy foes from the Empire State. Against the Big Red, West led Penn with 12-of-23 shooting from the floor, en route to a season-high 31 points. "I think Mandy dominates the league because there are not many guards in this league that have her speed," Soriero said. "If any of the guards don't get out on her, she's a very good three-point shooter." The following night, Caramanico killed Columbia inside with an incredible 40-minute performance. She scored 34 points while collecting 17 rebounds and blocking three of the Lions' shots. "Whether it's from the low block or the high post, she's just been able to put up those numbers," Soriero said. "She's also worked very hard at getting rebounds and second shot opportunities." As if Caramanico's 22.9 points per game production isn't impressive enough, she's averaging 27.6 points in Ivy League contests. In addition to being a scoring machine, she also leads the Ancient Eight in rebounds per game at 12.5 -- over four more than Columbia's Shawnee Pickney, who is in second place. While West and Caramanico have proven their dominance of the Ivy League with consistent production, it's been the increased level of play from sophomores Erin Ladley and Jessica Allen that has sparked the Quakers' current three-game winning streak. Ladley scored 34 total points last weekend in games against Dartmouth and Harvard, including a season high 18 against the Crimson. "I watched video with coach Soriero and she told me to look for my shot more and to drive more," Ladley said. As Ladley's offensive game has been developing, Allen has provided added defensive toughness to the squad. Allen grabbed eight boards in each of her last two games, and she recorded one of Penn's three blocks during the weekend. "For us to win, it's critical for [Ladley and Allen] to play at that same level down the stretch," Soriero said. Although Penn has really come into its own of late -- winning seven of its last 10 -- playing at Cornell and Columbia will be no easy task for the Quakers. Entering Penn's first meeting with Columbia this season, the Lions hadn't won an Ivy League game in over a year. Since then, Columbia has recorded wins over Yale and Dartmouth. "Columbia thinks they can beat everybody now that they beat Dartmouth, which may be a fair assumption," Caramanico said. Cornell presents an even tougher challenge the following night, as it will be the Big Red's season finale. "For Cornell, it's senior night, so they should be as pumped as we were last weekend," Ladley said. Ladley is referring to Penn's emotionally-charged, overtime upset over Dartmouth 80-77 last Saturday. That is the same win that kept Penn's title hopes alive. Despite the assistance that Penn needs from the women's college basketball gods, the team is focused on the task at hand. "Our goal is to win our last three games," Caramanico said. "That's all we can do."

Dartmouth's Rinaldi leads with stingy 'D'

(02/18/99 10:00am)

Defense wins championships, so they say. That is why the Dartmouth women's basketball team is counting on senior guard Nicci Rinaldi when it travels to Penn and Princeton this weekend. After losing to last-place Columbia last Saturday, the Big Green currently find themselves one game behind first-place Princeton in the Ivy league standings. "It was a disappointing loss Saturday [at Columbia], but we're confident in each other as basketball players," Rinaldi said. "I think the team that wins the Ivies is the one that plays best as a team. Right now, we've been trying to regain our focus." The Big Green are relying on Rinaldi's leadership and defensive expertise to help them bounce back with a weekend sweep that would catapult them into at least a tie for first place. "Nicci adds to the team's dynamics," Dartmouth coach Chris Wielgus said. "She's fun to be around, and once practice starts, she's the hardest worker you'll ever find." Wielgus perceived Rinaldi's work effort during the recruitment process, which led him to heavily covet the Shillington, Pa., native. Rinaldi's numbers also made her a top recruit -- she holds the Governor Mifflin High School record for career points with 1,432. Knowing that she would be losing four seniors who helped her Big Green squad win the Ivy League title in 1994-95, Wielgus put heavy emphasis on getting Rinaldi to keep Dartmouth's winning tradition alive. Since arriving in Hanover, N.H., Rinaldi has made her biggest contributions as the Big Green's chief defensive stalwart. She is currently averaging 2.1 steals per game and is ninth all time in Dartmouth history with 173 steals. However, Rinaldi needs only three more swipes -- which she is on pace to get this weekend -- to claim sole possession of seventh place all time in the Dartmouth record books. "It's an intangible kind of thing," Rinaldi said. "I know what's going on and I have a good sense of where everyone is on the court." That same quality makes Rinaldi a successful offensive threat as well. She immediately made her presence felt as the quarterback of the Dartmouth offense, recording 83 assists her freshman season. Last year, she compiled a career-high 112 assists -- the sixth-best season mark for a Big Green player. "She's awesome in the open court, and in the half-court Nicci has a God-given sixth sense for where her teammates are," Wielgus said. Rinaldi also contributes on the scoreboard, averaging 9.3 points per game. In the past, she has been a major scoring threat against Penn. In fact, her career high for points in a game came against the Quakers. As a freshman, Rinaldi scored 23 for the Big Green in her first outing against the Red and Blue. While Rinaldi did hit three three-pointers in that breakout game against the Quakers, Dartmouth's 10th all-time leading scorer is better known for her accomplishments at the charity stripe. Although her career free-throw percentage is only .608, Rinaldi's aggressive play with the ball has sent her to the line so many times that she is fourth all-time at Dartmouth in free-throws made. By passing Ann Deacon and Cindy Vaios -- who graduated in 1983 and 1984, respectively -- last weekend, Rinaldi has nailed more free throws than any guard to have ever played for the Big Green. While Rinaldi has already left her mark in the Dartmouth record books, she is not sure if she wants her basketball career to end there. "My only outlet for basketball is playing overseas somewhere," Rinaldi said. "I loved the two terms I spent abroad, so I may use basketball to see more of the world." However, before Rinaldi goes anywhere, she still has some unfinished business in Hanover. "I need a [championship] ring," Rinaldi said. "That has been our team goal and my personal goal from the beginning." As Dartmouth's best defensive player, Rinaldi will play a pivotal role in the Big Green's attempt to close in on Princeton and realize their championship dreams.

W. Hoops splits pair at Palestra

(02/15/99 10:00am)

For the second time this season, the Penn women's basketball team beat Yale and lost to Brown. During a wild weekend in Ivy League women's basketball, Penn was one of the few constants. While last-place Columbia was busy upsetting first-place Dartmouth, the Quakers lost to Brown and defeated Yale in the same weekend for the second time this season. After falling 74-65 to Brown at the Palestra on Friday night, the Quakers bounced back with a win over Yale 73-62 the following night. The Quakers (8-13, 4-5 Ivy League) and Bears (11-11, 6-4) played evenly in the beginning of the first half, as the two squads stood locked at 16 apiece with 6:30 remaining. A 20-9 run to end the half, however, gave Brown a 36-25 lead at the break. Emilie Troupe drained three three-pointers to pace the Bears' first-half run. "We got a little out of sync because we got in foul trouble early," Penn coach Julie Soriero said. "Combinations of players that don't normally work together were suddenly on the floor, which doesn't do great things for our timing." Senior forward Sue Van Stone picked up three fouls in only six first-half minutes, while sophomore center Jessica Allen recorded two fouls in just one minute of play. The only reason the Quakers were still within striking distance at halftime was that sophomore forward Diana Caramanico already had a double-double. Caramanico grabbed 10 boards before the break while scoring 19 points -- an incredible 76 percent of Penn's scoring. The Bears then picked up where they left off, increasing their lead to as many as 17 points. With only 8:30 left in the game and Brown leading 58-43, the Quakers suddenly made a run. Sophomore guard Erin Ladley hit a jumper and then sunk two free throws to spark Penn's comeback. Junior guard Mandy West then stole the show. After being held to two first-half points, West scored 12 of Penn's final 18 points to finish the game with 22. "In the first half, Diana had 19 points, so the defense was collapsing on her more in the second half," West said. "This gave me more opportunities to penetrate and score." Although the Quakers cut Brown's lead to four with under one minute remaining, the Bears hit 6-of-8 from the charity stripe in the final minutes to ice a 74-65 victory. After playing catch-up the previous night against Brown, it was Penn who led most of its contest with Yale. The first half of the Yale game was marked by one of Penn's best defensive performances of the season. The Quakers held the Elis to 9-of-27 shooting -- good for just 23 first-half points. "We were going man or zone based upon whether they scored or missed," Soriero said. "It didn't allow them to get a lot of timing. Yale is a streaky team and if they get into a rhythm, they can put some points up." The Red and Blue successfully shut down center Katy Grubbs as well. Grubbs scored 19 points earlier in the season when the two teams met in New Haven but was held to four points at the Palestra. "She's not playing at the level we'd like, so somebody else deserves a shot," Yale coach Cecilia DeMarco said. "Lily [Glick] has been doing a good job and Caramanico gave Katy a lot of trouble, so we had to try a different body against her." Led by backup center Glick, who scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds, the Elis found greater success in the second half, scoring 39 points. Nevertheless, their offensive turnaround was not a result of better execution but instead a product of good rebounding. "We did a great job defensively on their initial sets and looks," Soriero said. "However, we got in trouble and let them creep back into the game on their second- and third-shot opportunities." The Elis had 14 offensive rebounds in the second half alone, which led to 11 second-chance points. Although Yale picked up its offensive output in the second half, the Quakers also responded with one of their best 20 minutes of offense this season. Caramanico scored 33 for the second straight night and West added 22 points in back-to-back games as well. Caramanico's 66 points for the weekend left her just one point shy of 1,000 for her collegiate career. "We executed better than we usually do," West said. "We didn't just run our regular motions, but we ran a lot of special options too." The Quakers never lost their composure down the stretch as they pulled ahead 24-23 in the all-time series with the Elis.

Supporting cast makes the difference for W. Hoops

(02/15/99 10:00am)

As usual, sophomore forward Diana Caramanico and junior guard Mandy West dominated the Quakers' stat sheets this weekend. Unfortunately for the Quakers, the top two scorers in the Ivy League cannot win games by themselves -- the prime example being Penn's 74-65 loss to Brown on Friday. However, key contributions from the rest of Penn's regulars enabled the Quakers to down Yale 73-62 on Saturday. One of the nation's best one-two scoring punches, West and Caramanico scored a combined 110 points in two games, good for 79.7 percent of Penn's scoring. Collectively, the two have tallied 64.2 percent of Penn's scoring for the entire season. Against Brown, Caramanico and West scored 33 and 22 points, respectively, while the rest of the team managed to total just 10 points. Four of those 10 points came back-to-back from sophomore guard Erin Ladley, who kicked off a 21-10 Penn run to cut Brown's lead to 68-64 late in the game. After Ladley netted those four points, it was all Caramanico and West down the stretch. The duo accounted for all of Penn's final 18 points. That, however, was not the case against Yale. The Quakers got scoring punch in the waning minutes from unlikely heroes as they secured their eighth win of the season. With only seven minutes remaining in the contest, Penn led 51-46. Yale went on to score 16 points in the rest of the game, but the entire Penn offense answered every time Yale threatened to come back. In contrast to the Brown game, in which only Caramanico and West scored in the final seven minutes, half of Penn's final 22 points came from other players. Sophomore guard Liz Alexander hit a jumper to give Penn a 53-46 lead. The Elis responded with a trey before Ladley nailed a three from the corner to regain Penn's seven point lead. "Yale did a nice job with the double team on Diana, so we talked at halftime about rotating the ball more," Penn coach Julie Soriero said. "We talked about rotating the ball to look for a shot when the weak side kid has gone to help out on Diana. It was open for Liz and Erin a couple of times." Ladley did more than just score to help the Quakers. She was second on the team in both rebounds and assists, with six and three, respectively. "You can let Caramanico and West score 50 points between them if you shut down everybody else," Yale coach Cecilia DeMarco said. "I thought [Ladley] really hurt us. She really broke our backs with about five minutes left when she got a critical rebound and gave the ball to Caramanico, who scored. "They got her contribution and whenever you have three people contributing you'll probably win the game." Ladley also recorded a timely assist on a nice inside look to sophomore center Jessica Allen, another clutch performer for the Quakers. Allen helped secure the Red and Blue's victory by scoring six points in the last 2:23 of action. She scored on the pass from Ladley while drawing a foul in the process. After hitting the free throw to complete the three-point play, Allen then scored three points in the game's last minute to put the nail in Yale's proverbial coffin. "I think [balanced scoring] really makes a difference in any game, especially on the second night in an Ivy weekend," West said. "I played 40 minutes in both games, so obviously [I'm] going to be pretty tired down the stretch. It's great when your other teammates can step up and you know there's an even distribution on offense and defense."

Northeast proves cold to W. Hoops

(02/08/99 10:00am)

The Penn women's basketball team saw a four-game winning streak snapped with two tough Ivy losses. The Penn women's basketball team saw its four-game winning streak end this weekend when it lost at Dartmouth and Harvard by scores of 77-62 and 70-68, respectively. Perhaps that wasn't the only thing that ended for the Quakers. It also may have crushed their hopes for an Ivy League title. "It makes it very hard to finish atop the league, which has been our goal from the beginning," senior forward Sue Van Stone said. In a weekend that featured play between the Ivy League's four top teams -- Penn, Princeton, Dartmouth and Harvard -- the Quakers knew victories were vital if they were to seize first or second place in the Ivy League. Since they were visiting some of the conference's elite, this weekend's sweep of the Quakers was largely a result of stellar play by the opposition and not a breakdown of Penn's recent success. Penn opened the weekend against Dartmouth (13-6, 6-1 Ivy League), which held second place in the Ivy League entering Friday's game. The Quakers (7-12, 3-4) came out strong against the Big Green and played an even first half. In a half that featured eight lead changes, the biggest edge was five, belonging to Dartmouth at 27-22. The Big Green took a 37-35 lead into halftime thanks to a Samantha Berdinka three-pointer to close first-half scoring. The game proved to be a tale of two halves, though, as the Big Green never relinquished their halftime lead. "I panicked in the second half when they went into a box and one," Penn junior guard Mandy West said. By disrupting Penn's rhythm and limiting West's offensive prowess, Dartmouth shut down the Quakers and held them to 27 second-half points en route to a 15-point victory. "I think they're the best team [in the Ivy League]," Van Stone said. "They play well together and feed off their strengths." Although Dartmouth stripped West of her ability to quarterback Penn's offense, she still managed to score eight points in the second half, giving her 16 for the game. But a majority of the Quakers' scoring came from sophomore forward Diana Caramanico, who netted 34 of Penn's 62 points. Coupled with her 13 rebounds, Caramanico recorded another double-double. "Diana has really good footwork, so if you take away the baseline, she'll go to the center on you," Penn coach Julie Soriero said. "Also, Erin [Ladley] and Mandy are giving her good passes." After a game that saw West and Caramanico score over 80 percent of Penn's points, the Quakers had a much more balanced attack the following night at Harvard (7-11, 4-3). Sophomore guard Erin Ladley and sophomore center Jessica Allen both passed 10 in the scoring column, in addition to the usual double-digit performances from Caramanico and West, who had 23 and 17 points, respectively. "Overall, I think I played better against Harvard," West said. "It wasn't as difficult to find the open shots." Free from having to deal with Dartmouth's box-and-one, the Quakers' more balanced scoring attack enabled Penn to see greater success against the Crimson than they did the previous night. The Red and Blue had another see-saw battle in the first half, but this time it was the Quakers who went into halftime with the two-point lead. Unlike their game in Hanover, the Quakers came out strong in the second half and increased their lead to eight with less than eight minutes remaining. Penn's lead had been reduced to two, but Erin Ladley's three-pointer with 4:57 remaining put the Quakers up 62-57. Then came the Crimson fireworks. Although Harvard was only 9-of-21 from behind the arc in the game, the Crimson went 4-of-4 from downtown on four consecutive possessions to take a 69-64 lead with under two minutes left on the clock. "A four or five point lead is never enough against Harvard and neither is a 10- or 12-point lead for that matter," Soriero said. The Quakers still had some fight left in them, as they cut Harvard's lead to 69-68. Ultimately it was to no avail, as the clock was Harvard's ally. Time ran out on the Quakers after Harvard's Sarah Russell sank a free throw to put the Crimson up 70-68. "The biggest difference was rebounding," Soriero said. "It's not so much the numbers, but what the rebounds led to. They had many second opportunities, which was really costly." Penn's two losses this weekend make winning the Ivy League championship difficult. However, Penn is only halfway through its Ivy League schedule and no member of the Ancient Eight remains unbeaten after this weekend's action. Although the Quakers will need help from other teams, they still have an outside shot at the title if they can run the table.

NOTEBOOK: West honored as Ivy Player of the Week

(02/03/99 10:00am)

To top off the best week of the 1998-99 Penn women's basketball season, Penn junior guard Mandy West was named Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance in the Quakers' last three games. West, the first Quaker this season to win the honor, earned the accolade for her stellar play against Army, Cornell and Columbia, in which she scored 28, 31 and 15 points, respectively. "I think I've become better at setting up the offense," West said. "When I first started playing the one, I was out of control and unpredictable. Now I think I've gotten better at being more consistent." The week's play increased West's scoring average to 18.8, while she extended her streak of double-figure games to 10. "I think she chose her shots selectively in the last few games. She's passed the ball extremely well and she's broken the press well," Penn coach Julie Soriero said. "She's also stepped into more of a leadership role and in general her confidence is much higher." · The Quakers are idle until they play at Dartmouth and Harvard on Friday and Saturday. If history is any indication, this weekend should be bittersweet for Penn sophomore forward Diana Caramanico. In her collegiate career, Caramanico's No. 1 Ivy League victim has been Dartmouth. Against the Big Green, she averages 29 points per game -- while shooting an amazing 66.7 percent from the floor -- to go along with 13 rebounds per game. However, 24 hours after playing her favorite Ivy League opponent, she will take on her biggest Ivy nemesis. Last season Harvard was able to limit Caramanico to only nine points per game, her lowest output against any team in the Ancient Eight. "Harvard has bigger and beefier post players than any of the other Ivy League teams so against them I had a disadvantage weightwise and I got pushed around and taken out of the game," Caramanico said. "I'm hoping I can realize that early and not let it happen again." These numbers may be a bit misleading, however because the sophomore has only faced each team twice. · Since women's basketball became a varsity sport in the 1973-74 season, the Quakers had never had two consecutive seasons that included four-game winning streaks until Saturday, when Penn won its fourth in a row against Columbia. "There's a tremendous amount of potential for this program," Soriero said. "This is a nice, young team that is gaining confidence every single game." Strikingly, both four-game winning streaks came at the same point in the season. Last year, the Quakers beat Lafayette, Army, Cornell and Columbia to win four games in row. Exactly 52 weeks later, during the 1998-99 campaign, Penn completed the same four game sweep against another Patriot League team -- this time Bucknell -- followed again by Army, Cornell and Columbia. The Quakers will try to avoid a repeat of last season in Friday's contest. One year ago, they put their four-game winning streak on the line against Harvard and lost 90-64. "Allison Feaster was the nation's leading scorer," Soriero said. "She came down here and played well and Suzie Miller really stepped up her game." Soriero said she likes the Quakers' chances better this year "as long as we stay focused at our task at hand." · If the Quakers win Friday at Dartmouth, it will be Penn's first three-game Ivy League winning streak since 1995-96. The only player remaining from that season is senior forward Sue Van Stone. "This [year's] team is definitely capable of putting together a big run," Van Stone said. "The fact that our game with Princeton went to overtime, and they're No. 1 in the league, proves that we can beat anybody on any given night." A win Friday would also mark only the third time in Penn history that the Quakers have gone unbeaten for five straight games. The other times came during the 1974-75 and 1994-95 seasons. And what if Penn sweeps this weekend's action? It will be the first six-game winning streak in the history of the program.

W. Hoops is comfortable at Palestra

(02/01/99 10:00am)

The Penn women's basketball team earned Ivy League victories at home against Cornell and Columbia. Roll Quakers, roll. OK, so maybe it doesn't sound as great as Alabama's famous 'Roll Tide Roll' cheer, but the Penn women's basketball team is on a roll after winning four straight games, including this weekend's 71-68 win over Cornell and its 87-71 victory over Columbia. The Quakers began the weekend against Cornell (8-10, 2-4 Ivy League) Friday night at the Palestra. Penn dominated the first half by starting the game with an 11-2 run. The Quakers extended the lead to as many as 14 points, en route to a 37-26 halftime lead. "We did a lot with the running game by rebounding and quickly outletting to Mandy [West]," Penn sophomore center Jessica Allen said. "Mandy then goes one-on-one and that's where her points came from." After an excellent first half, the Quakers came out flat in the second half and their lead was chopped to one within 10 minutes. "It's the same story every game," Allen said. "We had an 11-point lead and then we lost it during the second half, and they came back." Penn, however, prevented the Big Red from ever taking the lead in the game. After Cornell cut Penn's lead to 45-44, the Quakers answered with seven consecutive points. Penn (7-10, 3-2) increased its lead to 11 with only 2:17 left on the clock, but the game was far from over. The lead shrank to two with 32.8 ticks left on the clock, before West -- and her .881 free-throw shooting percentage -- came through in the clutch with two free throws. Cornell picked up another basket, but Erin Ladley made a free throw and the clock ran out to give Penn the win. "We were a little nervous, but I think we're getting better," West said. "We've been in a lot of close games and have been coming away with more wins, so we've been getting more confident." West paved the way for Penn's victory by shooting 12-of-23 from the floor, resulting in a career-high 31 points. Although the quick back-and-forth pace of the game limited sophomore forward Diana Caramanico to 13 points, she played a huge role defensively with 13 rebounds and six steals. In a much more slowly flowing game the following night, Caramanico stole the show against short and scrappy Columbia (3-13, 0-6). Caramanico had her third 30-point performance of the season, finishing the game with 34 points and 17 rebounds. That was the 12th straight game that Caramanico led the Quakers in rebounding. "Cornell took me out of the game," Caramanico said. "They didn't even let me get the ball because I had to post up two players. Columbia has small post players and I hit a shot or two early on, so I had more confidence." Penn's height advantage led to productive nights for Allen and freshman Julie Epton, who are both over six feet tall. Allen scored 12 for the Red and Blue and Epton added five in only six minutes of playing time. Penn's win over the Lions also contrasted the previous night's contest because the Columbia game featured 17 lead changes, while the Cornell game had zero. Against the Lions, neither team led by more than five until Penn broke away in the last 10 minutes of the game. Ironically the see-saw battle proved to be the bigger blowout. The Quakers went on a 15-4 run to close out the Columbia game. West shined again at the charity stripe, going 4-of-4 down the stretch to increase her weekend total to a perfect 8-of-8. The weekend sweep improved Penn's Ancient Eight record to 3-2, That currently puts the Quakers in a tie for third with Harvard, behind Princeton (5-0) and Dartmouth (4-1). "I feel we can win the Ivy League and this weekend opens it up for us," Epton said. "Everything is in our hands except we need Princeton to lose." The Quakers, who were in sixth place in the Ivy League entering this weekend, can leapfrog at least one more spot in the standings next weekend by adding to their current four-game winning streak with wins at Dartmouth and Harvard.

W. Hoops two-star attack takes on N.Y.

(01/29/99 10:00am)

Caramanico and West lead the Quakers against a more balanced Cornell. After finishing its out of conference schedule with consecutive wins, the Penn women's basketball team resumes its Ivy League schedule this weekend against the league's New York state residents. Tonight, at 7 p.m in the Palestra, the Quakers host Cornell and tomorrow they take on Columbia at the same time and place. Penn is playing its best basketball of the season entering this weekend's action. The Quakers have benefited especially from continual dominance from their top two scoring threats, Mandy West and Diana Caramanico. "There have been different elements added to key players' games that have been beneficial," Penn coach Julie Soriero said. "Early in the season, Mandy was pressing to score from three-point range. Now she's finding different ways to score. For example, she's much better on a pull-up jumper." "Diana has been better at playing in the high post area, not just the low post area." The further advancement of Caramanico and West has put them atop the Ivy League in points per game with 20.0 and 18.8 respectively. Penn (5-10, 1-2 Ivy League) has shown confidence in its victories over Bucknell and Army, exemplified by the way the Quakers were able to respond to comebacks from the opposition. "In Bucknell's case, they made a run and went ahead in the second half," Soriero said. "In Army's case, they made a run and tied it in the second half. In both games we didn't fold when the other team gained momentum. We stayed focused on our game plan, and we did what we needed to do to beat them." Late game execution in tight games has been an issue for Penn all year, as six of its 10 losses have been by fewer than 10 points. The front end of the weekend is a contrast in offenses. Cornell will fight Penn's two scoring leaders with a well-balanced offensive attack. Cornell (8-8, 2-2) has four players who average over 10 points a game. However, only three will be playing tonight because the Big Red lost their starting center, Jumana Salti, to a season ending injury in the sixth game of the season. At the time, she was averaging 15.3 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game. Notwithstanding, senior forward Kristine Riccio and freshmen guards Breean Walas and Deborah Stevens are averaging over 10 points per game. "When they get a rhythm and a flow, they can get open shooters with the way they run their offense," Soriero said. "They've got key kids who can come up with big shots coming off different screens. One of the things we need to do is disrupt their flow." "We have to be able to stop guard penetration and make it harder for them to pass into the post," Penn sophomore guard Liz Alexander added. Twenty-four hours after tipping off against Cornell, Penn will tackle Columbia (3-11, 0-4). If the Lions lose tonight at Princeton, they will be entering West Philadelphia with a 19-game Ivy League losing streak. However, Columbia is not completely lacking in the talent category. Sophomore forward Shawnee Pickney has defied any possibilities of a sophomore slump. Recording nearly a double-double per game, she is averaging 9.5 points per game and 9.4 boards per game. "She can score from the high post and the low post," Soriero said. "I really respect the way she plays the game. A lot of kids want to be scoring threats, but they don't want to do the hard work. She's willing to step in and do the hard work." The Quakers are hoping they can thwart Pickney's efforts after disrupting Cornell's offensive attack, in a weekend that could potentially extend Penn's winning streak to four games.

Quakers react to Soriero's decision to leave

(01/25/99 10:00am)

The Penn women's basketball players said they are sad to see Soriero leave but agree this is the best move for her future. Last Wednesday, Penn women's basketball coach Julie Soriero surprised her athletes by announcing that she will resign after the completion of the 1998-99 season. After the shock subsided, the Quakers were not only able to focus on Saturday's game at Bucknell -- which Penn won 56-53 -- but the players were also able to put Soriero's decision into perspective. "She was feeling a lot of pressure from other people and herself to win, and I think she felt it was hurting her coaching," junior co-captain Mandy West said. The most surprising part of Soriero's announcement was its timing. Players initially questioned why such a resignation would be made in the middle of the season. "I was surprised because that wasn't where my mind was," senior co-captain Sue Van Stone said. Although the players understand and respect Soriero's decision, that is not to say they disliked her as a coach. "She relates to her players very well and puts together good scouting reports," Van Stone said. Relating to her players has been a speciality for Soriero, establishing her as a true "players' coach." "My favorite thing about her as a coach is that I like her as a person," West said. "She says she values our relationship. I respect her and feel comfortable going to her because she is open." "She's fun and has a good sense of humor," sophomore forward Diana Caramanico added. "Off the court you could always talk to her if you needed." As the team's one senior, Van Stone is the only Quaker who has played under Soriero the past four seasons. Van Stone played her first two seasons coming off the bench, averaging 10 minutes of playing time per contest. Van Stone was given a starting role last season as a junior and is yet to relinquish it. Saturday's win over Bucknell marked her 40th consecutive start. Throughout this stretch Van Stone has averaged about 30 minutes per outing. "She [Soriero] is supportive of me as a player and a student-athlete," Van Stone said. "She's helped me carve out a role for myself and helped me build on my strengths." Since Van Stone is the lone Quaker graduating this spring, she is the only team member who will not be playing for a new coach next winter. The rest of the players obviously understand that a transition period looms in the future. "Every time I see Julie make a decision, I say to myself 'I knew she was going to do that'," Caramanico said. "Now I'm a little nervous because I don't know what next year is going to be like." Penn's only player who has played under a different coach in her collegiate career is West, who transferred after playing two seasons at Boston College. "It's always difficult changing a program or coach," West said. "Our team is close though, so at least we'll have each other." The Quakers' team unity has certainly shown its effects this weekend. Soriero's plan to resign following the season could have negatively affected the squad. However, the team showed its ability to deal with adversity at Bucknell by winning a close game, which the Quakers have been struggling to do all season. Penn's team unity has also been exposed by the maturity the players have exhibited. The athletes, who have a tight relationship with Soriero, have shown their support by acknowledging that she is making the correct decision -- the decision in Soriero's best interest.

M. Hoops pounds Drexel as Romanczuk reaches 1,000

(01/22/99 10:00am)

The team beat Drexel to improve to 4-0 against Philly teams and push its winning streak to seven. All good things must come to an end -- for Drexel, that is. The Dragons saw their seven-game winning streak come to a halt last night in the Palestra, as the Penn men's basketball team extended its own streak to seven with a 75-65 victory. For the second year in a row, Penn dominated Drexel in the first half. Last year, the Quakers got off to a 17-2 start and held a 48-24 edge at halftime. This year, the Dragons (10-5) managed to hang tough for the first five minutes, but then it was deja vu at the Palestra. Led by two free throws and a three-point jumper from senior forward Jed Ryan, the Quakers went on a 12-0 run that proved to be the difference in the game. "They're very tough to defend because if you double the post, you leave a shooter open," Drexel coach Bill Herrion said. "If you jam up on the shooter, the post is open." Penn (10-3) used its versatility on offense to its advantage in the first half, scoring at a near-cheesesteak pace. With a remarkable .679 shooting percentage in the first 20 minutes, the Quakers took a 47-32 lead into the half. Junior guard Michael Jordan shot 6-of-7 before intermission, amassing 15 points. Meanwhile, senior forward Paul Romanczuk nearly had a double-double in the first half alone with 10 points and eight rebounds. "What teams are doing is pounding the ball inside [on us]," Herrion said. "Romanczuk was 5-for-5 at the half and Owens was 3-for-3. That's 8-for-8 for their post guys." Not only did Romanczuk's performance help the team, but it also helped him reach two major milestones in his collegiate career. With 3:54 remaining in the first half, Romanczuk netted points 1,000 and 1,001 of his career on a seven-foot jumper. He became the 26th player in Quakers history to pass the 1,000 point mark. "Coming into this program I didn't know what to expect," Romanczuk said. "I was coming into a top 25 program, and I just wanted to work hard and get a spot in the rotation." "It meant a lot, but now it's over with. The personal accomplishment is great but I've never won an Ivy League championship." The power forward wasn't finished reaching milestones, though. Romanczuk's 10th rebound of the game, which came in the second half, was the 500th of his career. Last week's Ivy League Player of the Week finished the game with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Despite Penn's first-half superiority, the Quakers' offense sputtered in the second half. Penn managed only 28 points, as its shooting percentage fell to .360. "They were doubling down and keying on me a little bit more," Romanczuk said. Although they struggled to score in the second half, the Red and Blue tightened up defensively and refused to let the Dragons come within striking distance. Drexel, held to a .313 shooting percentage in the second half, never came closer than nine points to the Quakers. And the Dragons did not even pull that close until just 41.3 ticks remained on the clock. Even though Drexel managed only 65 points for the game, junior center Joe Linderman made his presence felt. Linderman scored 23 for the Dragons and added eight rebounds. "We made a real adjustment toward the end when I told Jed [Ryan] just to go front him as best he could," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "I thought that helped a little, but he's a hard guy to guard." However, Penn did an excellent job shutting down Drexel's bench players. The Dragons' bench played a combined 39 minutes and scored just two points on a pair of Ross Neisler free throws. Junior guard Bryant Coursey's layup with 10.4 seconds left pulled Drexel within 10, but it was too little too late. The Quakers simply ran out the clock and sent the Dragons packing to their Market Street home, as Penn upped its record in 1999 to 7-0.

W. Hoops happy to be away

(01/18/99 10:00am)

The Quakers shoot for their fourth road win. The Penn women's basketball team tips off at Lafayette tonight to start a three-game non-conference stretch before concluding its Ivy League schedule. After a nine-day hiatus, the Quakers return to action tonight at 7 p.m. at the Allan P. Kirby Arena. After playing its first three Ivy League games in a span of six days, the extended layoff gave Penn (3-9) time to assess its play. One area that Penn coach Julie Soriero is looking to improve is defense. "We've put points on the board, but we're allowing the other team to put points on the board as well," Soriero said. "I've been working with some different combinations on the floor in the last couple of days, so if we want to go with a more pressing lineup, we can do that." The Quakers have also been doing things in practice to preserve their competitive edge so they don't come out flat after more than a week off. "We've been working on shooting and execution, and we've also been scrimmaging in game-like situations, so when we're in a winnable game, we [can] win" senior Sue Van Stone said. Soriero is expecting a close contest and says tonight's match should be a "winnable" one for the Quakers. Lafayette (2-13) has fared similarly to the Quakers against common opponents this season. Like Penn, the Leopards lost a close game at home against Princeton 47-45 and defeated Yale 69-57 on the road. Likewise, Penn lost 67-58 to Princeton at home while beating the Elis 70-64 in New Haven. If the Quakers receive the offensive output that sophomore forward Diana Caramanico has produced in recent games, Penn should be able to improve its road record to 4-5. "Diana is one of those players that can dominate a game," Soriero said. "She always wants to get better, so she's always in watching tape. She scored 37 against Brown and we're looking at what she can do better defensively." In her last three games, Caramanico has led the Quakers in scoring, tallying 16, 30 and 37 points, against Princeton, Yale and Brown, respectively. "I think what she's doing to elevate her game is that she's doing a better job reading the defenses, in terms of where the double team is coming from and whether they're fronting her or playing behind her," Soriero said. Thanks to her recent dominance against Ivy League opponents, Caramanico has increased her team-leading scoring average to 19.9 points per game. Caramanico also leads the team with 11.6 rebounds per game. While Lafayette will be busy trying to shut down Caramanico, the Quakers will have their hands full with senior forward Ali Berlin. Berlin, who was second-team All-Patriot League last season, led the Leopards with 11.3 points per game in 1997-98. She has continued her excellence this season, as she again leads Lafayette with an 11.5 points per game average. Berlin's presence is also felt on the boards, where she collects 5.2 rebounds per game. "We'll probably try to go with Jess [Allen] a little bit [when defending Berlin] because Ali is the type of kid who is pretty big and strong," Soriero said. "Ali will have to work harder to get shots against Jess than she would against Diana because Jess is a little taller. Maybe we'll also play a little zone and trap her if she gets the ball in the low block." The defensive scheme should work well because Lafayette's tallest starter, senior center Alicia Yapsuga, is only six feet tall. Thus, while Allen is covering Berlin, Caramanico -- who is 6'2" -- can cover Yapsuga. The Quakers have had a Jekyll-and-Hyde season, going 0-4 at home and 3-5 away from the Palestra. With tonight's game in Easton, Pa., the Red and Blue look to use Caramanico's recent statistical domination and Allen's defensive edge over the smaller Berlin en route to win No. 4.

Hawks' three sink W. Hoops' plans

(12/15/98 10:00am)

St. Joe's used its eight three-pointers to thwart Penn's comeback hopes. As anticipated, the sharpshooting St. Joseph's women's basketball team continued its success from three-point range when it visited the Quakers at the Palestra on Saturday. The Hawks' long-range bombs made most of the difference in Saturday's 69-50 win over Penn. Threes certainly had an impact on the first half. Although the Hawks led 36-26 at the break, both teams were 9-of-19 from two-point range. St. Joe's hit one more free-throw and sank three more treys than the Quakers to account for the 10-point halftime lead. While the Hawks drained four more three-pointers than the Quakers, it was the timeliness -- and not the number -- of Hawks three-pointers that hurt the Quakers most. With eight minutes left in the first half, Penn trailed 22-20. Looking for its first lead of the game, Penn attempted a three-pointer. St. Joe's rebounded the miss and moved the ball down court, where guard Melissa Coursey drained one of her four treys and gave the Hawks a 25-20 edge -- a lead they would never relinquish. A senior, Coursey leads the Hawks with 25 three-pointers and a 43.9 percent three-point shooting percentage that far exceeds her 28.5 percent mark for field goals inside the arc. "We knew who their main three-point shooter was and we knew we had to get out and challenge her, especially on the left side," Penn coach Julie Soriero said. "I think we did a much better job in the second half defending her." The Quakers held Coursey to only one three-pointer in the second half. In addition to Coursey, junior guard Angela Zampella added three treys of her own. Like Coursey, Zampella is more accurate from downtown, hitting 11-of-29 treys (37.9 percent), compared to 34.8 percent on two-pointers. "Zampella is a good penetrator and Coursey is also very good off the dribble, so if you go out too hard on the shot, they can put it down and make something happen," Soriero said. St. Joe's was especially successful from outside when Penn switched from its man-to-man defense to a zone. "I think the zone opened things up for Mel [Coursey]," Hawks coach Stephanie Gaitley said. The Hawks' quick ball movement enabled Coursey to get the ball, which worked well with Penn in its zone. "They did a very nice job on our zone with an inside-outside attack," Soriero said. "When it comes in to [center Jana] Lichnerova at the high post -- and we pinch in to defend that -- then she made some good passes out to the perimeter to find open players." The excellent perimeter play by the Hawks did not go entirely unmatched, as Penn also had some three-point success. The Quakers hit four treys, including career-firsts by both Liz Alexander and Diana Caramanico. Both sophomores entered the game 0-for-2 on threes, having missed one last year and one earlier this season. Alexander's three tied the score at 10-10, while Caramanico's cut St. Joe's lead to 38-31 early in the second half. "Both of the three-point shots I've taken this year were off the block at the top of the key, which is my favorite place to shoot from," Caramanico said. Caramanico had scored 636 career points in 32 games for the Quakers before sinking her first three. "I need to stretch my game out a little more and that's one of the ways I'm looking to do it," Caramanico said. Excluding the surprising help from Caramanico and Alexander, the Quakers were only 2-of-8 on threes. With St. Joe's nailing 8-of-20 treys, it is clear the Hawks' downtown attack played a key role in their victory.

W. Hoops gets taste of Europe against S. Joe's on Saturday

(12/10/98 10:00am)

The Quakers will face 6'4" Slovak Jana Lichnerova as they try to beat St. Joe's for the first time ever. Five years ago, the St. Joseph's women's basketball team took a trip to Europe without realizing the rewards it would reap. St. Joe's coach Stephanie Gaitley made a few contacts in Europe, which, two years later, enabled her to recruit Jana Lichnerova, the Hawks' 6'4" center. "I was expecting Jana to help us right away," Gaitley said. "I find with international students, the big kids have better skills at a younger age." According to Penn coach Julie Soriero, women's college basketball has seen a rapid growth in the number of international athletes in recent years, especially among the big basketball programs. "I think they may be more appreciative of the opportunity which maybe makes them hungrier," Soriero said. It was this opportunity that initially brought Lichnerova to the United States in an attempt to emulate her mother, who played for the Czech Republic at the 1971 World Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Much to Gaitley's chagrin, however, Lichnerova's presence was not immediately felt. A preseason knee injury caused her to miss her entire freshman season in 1995-96. Nevertheless, Gaitley knew her capabilities and started her in every game of the 1996-97 season. Lichnerova finished the season at 7.0 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. "She was an extremely skilled post player," Gaitley said. "It's a struggle to recruit players like her." Lichnerova had a breakthrough season last year by adding an entirely new dimension to her game. Entering the 1997-98 campaign shooting a career 0-for-3 from behind the arc, Lichnerova found her touch from downtown. She finished the season 10-for-35 with a .286 three-point shooting percentage -- impressive for a 6'4" center. Lichnerova has continued her success this season, hitting 40 percent from behind the arc. "St. Joe's is always a good perimeter team," Soriero said. "She's a pretty steady player and very agile for a player of her size." Gaitley is hoping she will begin to use that size to her advantage more often, particularly with respect to fighting back against contact and becoming more of a "focal point" in the post offensively. At the end of last season Lichnerova's groove was halted due to a sprained medial collateral ligament. The injury caused her to miss the final eight games of the season. Luckily for the Hawks, Lichnerova did not lose any momentum heading into this season. She has increased her scoring average to 9.9 points per game, thanks to back-to-back 19-point performances against Toledo and Boston College. These performances earned her "Athlete of the Week" honors in The Hawk, St. Joe's student newspaper. Lichnerova also leads the team in blocks, is third on the team with 22 defensive rebounds and is fourth in steals. "Jana does things very well that don't show up in the statistics," Gaitley said. "Her best aspect is the defensive game. She is good at getting to the right spot and is a good close-defender and help-defender." Since Lichnerova missed her entire freshman year with the knee injury, she was redshirted and still has another year of eligibility after this season. Although she has not determined whether she wants to stay another year or graduate, the St. Joe's faithful would love to see her the results of another year of progress.

W. Hoops travels to Bethlehem

(12/02/98 10:00am)

The Quakers are looking for a consistent, 40-minute effort in order to win their second game in a row. Last Tuesday at St. Francis, the Penn women's basketball team had to erase an 18-point deficit to earn its first victory of the season. Tonight, the Quakers hope consistency will pave the way to victory when they travel to Lehigh (3-2). In the Quakers' last three road games, they have been unable to play consistently for an entire game. Even in their win at St. Francis, the Quakers (1-3) played flat for the first 20 minutes. "My goal is for us to go up to Lehigh with another opportunity to play on the road and be consistent for a full 40 minutes," Penn coach Julie Soriero said. "If we come and play a good, hard 40 minutes we will be able to beat them." Last year, Penn defeated Lehigh under almost exactly the same circumstances. After dropping their first three games of the 1997-'98 season, the Quakers beat East Tennessee St. 79-73 to improve their record to 1-3 entering their game with Lehigh. Subsequently, Penn dominated Lehigh 75-57 with help from Liz Alexander -- a freshman at the time -- who scored 14 points for the Quakers. "I think they'll play with more confidence than they did last year, and I think we need to go out and not allow them to get an early lead like St. Francis did," Soriero said. Lehigh is led by guards Danielle Baldwin and Kelly Collins, and forward Maureen Trigo. Baldwin leads the Engineers with 12 points per game, while Collins and Trigo are averaging 10.8 and 9.2 points per game, respectively. Lehigh's most impressive statistic is three-point shooting. Collectively the Engineers are shooting 31.3 percent from behind the arc, whereas they have held their opponents to a .159 percentage. Trigo and back-up guard Charlotte Muller lead the Engineers, hitting 35.7 percent from downtown. This could be trouble for the Quakers, who have allowed opponents to go 23-of-61 in three point attempts -- good for 37.7 percent. "We need to make sure we're ready to step out on those shooters and not let them get good looks at the basket," Soriero said. "Their guards right now are leading them. We need to make sure we get out on them and make sure they don't have any rhythm on their shots or get any rhythm into their offense where those guards can come off screens and look at open threes." While the key for Penn will be to shut down Lehigh's guards, the Engineers will have just as much trouble containing the Quakers inside game, and the one-two scoring punch of sophomore power forward Diana Caramanico and junior guard Mandy West. Right now both West and Caramanico are averaging over 20 points per game, and they are coming off season-high performances against St. Francis. Therefore, Lehigh's main defensive objective should be to shut them down. "I want to be able to step up on offense if they overplay our go-to players," senior captain Sue Van Stone said. Lehigh will also need to contain Penn's front-court in order to be victorious. Penn has a distinct size advantage down low. Both Caramanico and sophomore center Jessica Allen are over 6'2", while Lehigh's tallest starter, center Christina Henry, is only 6'1". Despite their winning record, height has been an issue for the Engineers. Going into last Sunday's game against Towson, Lehigh had been out-rebounded 179-160. If Penn uses its height advantage and plays its first game of 40 consistent minutes, the Red and Blue should extend its winning streak to two games.

W. Hoops notches first win with OT victory

(11/25/98 10:00am)

Penn's Mandy West led the team with 26 points, including two three-pointers to help send the game into overtime. The Penn women's basketball team apparently learned a valuable lesson from Temple in last Saturday's game. They were taught how to come from behind and win. Penn was the victim against Temple, but yesterday at St. Francis the Quakers (1-3) displayed their second half heroics. Penn was able to erase a 19-point deficit in under 16 minutes of play to force an overtime. Its momentum carried into the overtime session, giving the Quakers their first win of the season by the score of 70-64. Diana Caramanico led the Quakers in scoring with 27 points on 9-for-14 shooting from both the field and the free throw line. But co-captain Mandy West was the spark down the stretch. She poured in 26 points, including five three-pointers. Before this outburst, though, the Terriers owned the entire first half. Six and a half minutes into the game, St. Francis had a 14-3 lead which grew to a 15-point margin by halftime. Penn coach Julie Soriero made a few key adjustments at halftime in an attempt to get Penn back into the game. Most importantly, Soriero told her team to front the post instead of standing behind the player posting-up. The adjustments didn't translate into immediate success, however, as St. Francis increased its lead to 47-28 with only 15:49 remaining. Afterwards, Penn called a timeout and never looked back. The Red and Blue went on a 13-0 run thanks to eight free throws, a Caramanico jumper and a West three-pointer. "We played more together as a team," sophomore guard Liz Alexander said. "We knew where everyone was on the court." This awareness on the court was critical for Penn's success against the Temple-like trap used by St. Francis. Penn showed a lack of poise against Temple's trap, causing them to blow an 18-point lead. "Essentially, we didn't get flustered [this time]," Caramanico said. "We had confidence because we practiced it." The Quakers' confidence and aggressiveness enabled them to stage the comeback. With under two minutes left to play, Penn still trailed by six, but another West trey and a Jessica Allen basket cut the deficit to one. With 51 ticks left on the clock, the Terriers' Erin Siemer hit two free throws to give St. Francis a 60-57 lead. West drained another three to tie the game at 60 apiece and ultimately force overtime. "I knew we had momentum [going into overtime]," Soriero said. "We have a young team, and I wasn't sure if we could pull it off, but my team proved a lot to me." Penn took its first lead of the game on an Erin Ladley free throw that made the score 63-62 -- a lead Penn would never relinquish. The Quakers put the game out of reach when Caramanico sunk two free throws with 22 seconds left to increase their lead to four. "Diana has been a steady player and our stalwart all year," Soriero said. "She came up big for us today." Caramanico played consistently throughout the game. She had 16 points in the first half, eight in the second half and three in the overtime. In contrasting style, West, the only other Quaker to score in the double digits, had a more lopsided contribution. West was 1-of-8 from the floor for two points in the first half. But, she added 24 points the rest of the way, including seven free throws in seven attempts. West is now 26-of-28 on the season from the charity stripe. Almost as remarkable for Penn was its rebounding. The Quakers accumulated 42 rebounds, including 20 on the offensive glass alone. The Terriers' game was highlighted by the play of guard Trisha Guli. With 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, Guli recorded the first triple-double of her career. Despite Guli's performance, the Quakers were able to defeat the press and stage a comeback for their well-deserved first win of the season. "If we learn something from every game, we'll be ready for Ivy League competition," Soriero said. "Today we learned to never give up."

W. Hoops suffers loss at Towson

(11/19/98 10:00am)

After trailing by just five at halftime, the Penn women's basketball team lost by 17 points. Showing similar intensity as Penn did in its home opener, Towson started its season with a 74-51 win over the Penn women's basketball team. Meanwhile, the Quakers (0-2) went from one end of the intensity spectrum to the other. Since it was the Tigers' home opener, it was easy for their players to get mentally psyched for the game. "You want to show people what you can do from the beginning," Penn freshman guard Julie Epton said about home openers. "You also want to start your season with high intensity, so you can keep it at that level during the season. [Today] we weren't mentally into the game." Unfortunately the Quakers were unable to sustain their intensity from their Villanova home opener. Notwithstanding, Penn kept the game close for a half and traded leads with Towson (1-0) throughout the first twenty minutes. With the game tied 15 minutes into it, Penn coach Julie Soriero called timeout to discuss making a run to get a lead before halftime. Nevertheless, it was the Tigers who broke the tie and entered the intermission with a five point lead. Down only by the score of 32-27, Penn was easily within striking distance entering the second half. However, Towson converted three consecutive Penn turnovers into a 13 point lead, only two minutes into the second session. This proved to be Penn's backbreaker -- four minutes later the Towson lead increased to 19 -- as the Quakers were unable to get back into the game. For both Penn and Towson, the best performances of the day came off the bench. In only 15 minutes of action, Epton shot 4-of-5 from the floor and 2-of-2 from the charity stripe -- good for 10 points in the game. Only sophomore forward Diana Caramanico and junior guard Mandy West scored more, each scoring 12. Moreover, Epton had four defensive rebounds and five total boards, second only to center Jessica Allen, who had a total of six. Epton also added to Penn's defensive effort with two steals. "I wanted to help us step up the intensity," Epton said. "Also, I wanted to give quality minutes off the bench to give our players some rest." Epton wasn't the only player in last night's game to provide productive minutes off the bench. For Towson the player of the game was sophomore back-up guard Jill McGowan. McGowan led the Tigers with 17 points. Not only did she shoot 6-of-11 from the floor, but she shot 3-of-5 from behind the arc. Two of the three-pointers came in timely fashion at the end of the first half to give Towson its five point lead. "She just stepped into her shots and let them fly," Soriero said. "We gave her too many good looks." Fellow sophomore guard Mylisa Pilione also hit three treys in the game for the Tigers. Pilione led the second half outburst for Towson, by scoring 12 of her career-high 15 points after halftime. Junior forward Shniece Perry and sophomore center Jess Gordon were the other two Tigers to reach double digits in the point column -- Perry with 13 and Gordon with 16. Overall the Tigers had a three-point field goal percentage of .568 and a total field goal percentage of .483, whereas Penn's percentages were .364 and .358 respectively. On defense, junior forward Shniece Perry paved the way for Towson. She accumulated eight rebounds, six of which were on the defensive glass, four steals and one block. Although the Red and Blue were beaten on both ends of the court, yesterday's loss is not a reason to be concerned. "We're still a young team," Soriero said. "There needs to be a level of patience." Even though the Quakers don't play at the Palestra until December 5, when they host La Salle, they shouldn't have trouble getting up for their next game in North Philadelphia against Big Five rival Temple.

Can an Ivy team ever repeat the 1979

(11/16/98 10:00am)

The Penn men's basketball team of 1978-79 was the last Ivy League team to reach the NCAA Final Four. As the Penn men's basketball team enters its 1998-99 campaign, the players and fans hope this will be the year Penn ends its four-year hiatus from NCAA Tournament action. Some Penn fans are looking even further, wondering if it would be possible for the Quakers to not only make the NCAA Tournament but also to do some damage. Maybe even do the improbable -- make the Final Four. The last time an Ivy League team made the Final Four was in 1979, when Penn defeated Iona, North Carolina, Syracuse and St. John's en route to an unlikely Final Four appearance. Since then, however, college basketball -- more specifically Ivy League basketball -- has drastically changed. These changes pose an interesting question: can an Ivy League team make it to the Final Four again? The Ivy League fan's hopeful answer would be yes, because anything can happen. Nevertheless, certain factors have arisen that decrease the likelihood of it becoming a reality. The two biggest factors are the high price of an Ivy League education and its effect on the Ivy League's ban against giving athletic scholarships. "We priced ourselves out of Division I major college basketball," Bob Weinhauer, who coached the Quakers in 1979, told The Daily Pennsylvanian in 1994. "When I first came to Penn in 1972, it probably cost somewhere between $4,000 and $6,000 a year to go to Penn. If guy was a full need, it cost his family $800 to $1,000 a year." As everyone knows well, it now costs over $30,000 a year to attend Penn. Even a great financial aid package cannot reduce the cost enough to convince most star athletes to turn down a full scholarship elsewhere. Back in 1979, it was conceivable that a top athlete might turn down a full scholarship to get a Penn education for less than $1,000 with a good aid and loans package. "I don't think Penn could get players like Bobby [Willis] or Tony [Price] or me anymore," 1979 Penn graduate and forward Tim Smith said. "It's pretty pricey right now. I can't see them getting back to the caliber of play back in the '70s, '80s or even '90s, so it's going to be really difficult to do that again." Considering the scholarship offers they received, the West Philadelphia High legend is certainly correct. Without Willis, Price and himself on the 1979 squad, Penn would have been even more unlikely candidates to make the Final Four. "My mother used to say that I had a shopping bag full of letters," Price said. "I think I could have gone to almost any school I wanted to, with a few exceptions. North Carolina didn't recruit me. UCLA wasn't recruiting me, but Lefty Driesell recruited me at Maryland." Despite the Ivy League's inability to give athletic scholarships, all Ivy League schools do give need-based aid. Therefore, significant financial aid packages -- even with today's high financial costs of attending an Ivy -- keep the possibility alive that an Ivy team could attract superb athletes. "I get a lot of money here [at Princeton] and if that weren't the case I wouldn't be at an Ivy League school," Princeton senior Brian Earl -- who helped lead the No. 8-ranked Tigers to the NCAAs last year -- said. The biggest factor working for the Ivy League is its prestigious academic reputation. "I think with the emphasis that is being put now on academics, that it will conceivably be possible again," All-Ivy point guard James Salters, a 1980 Wharton graduate, said. "If you have a lot of inner city kids who have good grades and want a good education first, it could happen. If the program is really going after the kids who have good grades and can qualify financially to attend the University, they can build a good program." Although no Ivy League team has been able to return to the Final Four since 1979, two teams in recent history have been ranked nationally and posed a possible threat for an Ivy League return. In 1994, the Quakers entered the NCAA Tournament nationally ranked and as a No. 11 seed. In the opening round, Penn defeated Nebraska, 90-80. Two days later, they played a close game, but ultimately lost 70-58 to Florida, an eventual Final Four participant. "We had to play four very, very good basketball games [to make the Final Four]," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "That would have put us in the Sweet 16 if we beat Florida, and then we would get two other really difficult teams to beat. You just have to play almost flawless basketball that's not true of only Penn in '94, but Florida had to play almost flawlessly for them to get there." The second team that showed a possibility of repeating Penn's 1979 performance was Princeton's 1998 squad. "Princeton was extremely well coached, and what they did was so successful," Orlando Magic coach Chuck Daly, who coached Penn from 1972 to 1977, said. "I don't think they were quite as talented as those [Penn] teams [of the 1970s]." Entering NCAA Tournament action, the Tigers had lost only one game, a 50-42 defeat at North Carolina. Princeton was rewarded for its near-perfect regular season with a four seed in the East bracket -- a significantly higher seed than the 1979 No. 9-seeded Quakers received. "The way Princeton has played the last couple of years I think Princeton was certainly a team that could have gotten to the Final Four, and I don't think it would have been that shocking," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. Boeheim's 1979 team was defeated by the Quakers in the Sweet 16, while his 1992 team beat Princeton in the first round, 51-43. Princeton easily disposed of UNLV in the first round by the score of 69-57. Michigan State then defeated the Tigers 63-56 in the second round. Unlike Penn's loss in 1994, however, Princeton was actually favored to win that game and advance to the Sweet 16 to face North Carolina. "Looking back on it, we could have made it [to the Final Four] last year," Earl said. "Sometimes Ivies are undersized, but one of the elite [Ivy] teams that comes along every few years could possibly put it together." Although the 1994 Quakers and the 1998 Tigers at least had the potential of making a tournament run, neither team came closer than the round of 32. However, past results mean little once the next year's tournament gets under way. Given the right personnel and the right breaks, almost anything can be possible in the NCAA Tournament. "It's all a matter of chemistry," Willis said. "There's a tremendous amount of athletes out there with both the academic and the athletic skills. It's a matter of getting enough kids in the same graduating class. If you can get enough quality kids coming in, and they get the support around them in the other classes, a good team can make a run." Although the 1979 Penn team possessed more natural talent than today's Ivy teams are likely to attract, they needed more than their share of luck to reach the Final Four. And when luck comes into play, anything is possible. Just ask Bobby Willis. "If it happened once, it could happen again."

Volleyball finishes fourth with upset

(11/16/98 10:00am)

What a difference a day makes. This cliche aptly describes the turn of events that occurred for Penn at this weekend's Ivy League Volleyball Championship. In the double elimination tournament, the Quakers (11-16, 2-5 Ivy League) lost their opener on Friday to Princeton but then rebounded Saturday with a pair of victories, before being finally eliminated by Yale. Their performance ultimately led to a fourth-place finish in the Ivies. Before the Quakers even arrived at Brown -- the host school -- everything went wrong. Thursday, the bus never showed up to take the team to Providence. Then, when the team finally arrived, its members never received their Friday morning wake-up calls. Despite the extra sleep, Penn opened the tournament with a 3-0 loss to Princeton (19-13, 5-2) by the scores of 15-10, 15-9, 15-8. "We played rather flat," Penn coach Kerry Major said. "I was disappointed with our performance." With the loss Penn was put behind the eight ball. Due to the tournament's structure, if a team loses in the first round, they must win their next six matches to win the Championship. To add to the players' stress, Friday night there was a fire drill at 2 a.m. in the morning. When it seemed like nothing was going right, the Quakers showed their perseverance and heart, turning the weekend around. To start the day Penn polished off Cornell 15-13, 15-6, 15-11. The Quakers were led by senior middle blocker Sue Sabatino, who recorded 19 kills and had an incredible .654 hitting percentage. Although the Quakers dominated Cornell (8-20, 1-6), Major was concerned going into the match. Cornell played a tough game against No. 2 seed Dartmouth in the first round, losing 3-1. According to Major, that Cornell team looked much better than the one Penn beat 3-0 earlier this season. Nevertheless, with their backs against the wall, the Red and Blue took care of Cornell to set up a match with Dartmouth. The Big Green lost to Princeton earlier in the tournament, so both Penn and Dartmouth were facing elimination going into the match. "They are such a defensive team," Major said. "We get really frustrated against those teams. I'd rather play a team that's better offensively than defensively." Unfortunately, Penn wasn't given much of a choice. So, as heavy underdogs, the Quakers took the court and quickly left at intermission down 2-0. The Quakers, however, were not to be denied. In perhaps their greatest three-game performance of the season, the Quakers controlled the rest of the match en route to an impressive 6-15, 3-15, 15-11, 15-13, 15-12 win. Sabatino and Penn freshman outside hitter Stephanie Horan had 22 kills each, while freshman Jodie Antypas and junior Angie Whittenburg led the way defensively with 22 and 21 digs, respectively. Most impressively, the Quakers outblocked the Big Green 20.5-4, led by freshman Kelly Szczerba's one solo block and 11 blocking assists. The momentum from the Dartmouth win translated into early success against Yale (21-10, 4-3) -- Penn's third opponent of the day. The Quakers took the first game 15-12, but Yale wore them out and went on to win 12-15, 15-5, 15-3, 15-7. Rosie Wustrack helped the Elis' cause with 23 kills and a hitting percentage of .439. Horan, who finished the Championship with 51 kills, 36 digs and a hitting percentage of .218 was named to the All-Tournament Team -- the only Quaker and freshman to be honored. "When you're playing, you don't think about awards or stats, but I'm really honored," Horan said. Although they fell short of an Ivy League Championship, with athletes like Horan leading the way, the future looks bright. Major's first season as Penn volleyball coach ended with a successful weekend. The Quakers had the biggest upset of the weekend, enabling them to finish fourth despite their first round loss. Most importantly, however, the Red and Blue showed heart, as they have throughout the season -- enabling them to overcome adversity after the many stumbling blocks the team hit on Friday the 13th.

'98 University of Pennsylvania Women's Basketball Team

(11/12/98 10:00am)

Women's basketball returns a talented sophomore class. "Our youth can be our strength in that they are talented and got experience last year. However, they are still young." In two sentences, Penn women's basketball coach Julie Soriero perfectly summed up the Quakers situation as they enter their 1998-'99 campaign. Last year, youth proved to be both Penn's strength and weakness as the Quakers cruised to a 13-13 record, 8-6 in the Ivy League. Although most .500 records are a sign of mediocrity, last year's 13-13 record was a positive sign of things to come. Previously, the Quakers finished their 1995-'96 and 1996-'97 seasons at 3-23 and 6-20, respectively. Youth played an instrumental role in last year's comeback. Starting the year with only three players who had college experience, the team looked to six freshmen to join graduated seniors Colleen Kelly and Michelle Maldonado, and current senior Sue Van Stone on the hardwood. Three of those six -- forward Diana Caramanico, center Jessica Allen and point guard Erin Ladley -- started last Monday's exhibition game against Belarus. "We're trying to get more consistent," Soriero said. "We found some young players who were consistent last year like Diana. Now we need more of the young players, like Erin Ladley and Jessica Allen, to do the same." Caramanico, the Ivy League, the Philadelphia Big Five and ECAC Rookie of the Year, was the first player in Penn history to earn the Ivy League Rookie of the Year distinction. She averaged a double-double for the season with 20.2 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. She also contributed defensively by leading the Red and Blue with 34 blocks. Last year, both Ladley and Caramanico started 24 of the Quakers' 26 games. Allen started three games, while fellow sophomore Elisabeth Alexander made the starting line-up nine times. Experience should make Penn a much tougher opponent now that Stone, who started every game last year at forward and finished third on the team in rebounds and assists, is complemented by sophomores instead of freshmen. The biggest obstacle Penn should have to overcome is replacing shooting guard Kelly, who amassed over 1,000 points during her Penn career. However, Soriero will not be going to last year's bench to find Kelly's replacement. Kelly's shoes will be filled by Boston College transfer Mandy West, who sat out last year due to NCAA regulations. "Colleen was a crucial part of our team and a great three-point shooter," Stone said. "Fortunately, three-point shooting is a strong part of Mandy's game." In her freshman year at Boston College, West hit 45 three pointers, which was the fifth best single season total in Boston College history. Moreover, her average of 2.0 three point field goals per game was fifth best in Big East. "Mandy gives us the same scoring potential [as Kelly], but I think she's better defensively," Soriero said. The Quakers will also see the return of junior forward Jen Houser, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. After missing the beginning of her freshman season due to a wrist injury, Houser averaged nine minutes and 2.3 points per game as a rookie. In a lineup already loaded with sophomores, Penn also has four freshmen who made the squad. Forward Tiffany Bell, along with guards Maria Demeke, Julie Epton, and Melissa Lopez, comprise the Class of 2002. If the current freshmen contribute like last year's freshmen did, the Quakers will probably have their first winning record in eight seasons. "I expect us to be in contention for the Ivy League title," Stone said. "That's our goal for the year."

Volleyball plays well in sweep by Rutgers

(11/04/98 10:00am)

Penn's volleyball team lost three straight after a close 17-15 first loss. In a five-day span, the Penn volleyball team played matches against both ends of the volleyball talent spectrum. After easily sweeping this weekend's matches against lowly Cornell and Columbia, without losing a game, the Quakers (7-13) fell to Big East powerhouse Rutgers by the scores of 17-15, 15-4, 15-7. Since Rutgers (14-9) is arguably Penn's toughest opponent of the year, the Quakers knew winning would be difficult, so they set out to make gains in preparation for next weekend's Ivy League Tournament. "We had specific goals to work on, and we had confidence from the weekend," Penn coach Kerry Major said. The Quakers' goals included playing solid defense and shutting down Rutgers' junior Lola Opadiran. Showing its development as a team, Penn was able to succeed in both areas. The Red and Blue amassed 37 digs, led by freshman middle blocker Kelly Szczerba and senior middle blocker Sue Sabatino, who finished the match with seven digs each. Sabatino was also tops among Quakers in blocks, with four blocking assists. Penn registered a total of seven blocks in the match, only one-half less than Rutgers. An even greater accomplishment for the Quakers was their ability to shut down Opadiran. Opadiran received second team All-Big East honors last year as a sophomore, and she has led the Scarlet Knights in kills throughout her collegiate career. Although Opadiran has proved her dominance in volleyball, Penn effectively took her out of yesterday's match. She finished the game with merely two kills and a hitting percentage of .000. To shut Opadiran down, the Quakers had to sacrifice emphasis on other players, which Rutgers used to its advantage. Rutgers sophomore and outside hitter Kera Carter, who was second in kills to Opadiran last season, had 18 kills and a hitting percentage of .378 against Penn. However, she was the only Scarlet Knight with double digits in the kill column. Penn freshman outside hitter Stephanie Horan reached eight kills, as she continued her success from last weekend when she had 21 total kills against Cornell and Columbia. "We had no one in the double digits in kills," Major said. "We did a smart job of keeping the ball in play, but they did a great job defensively." The high point of the match for Penn came in the first game. Showing the confidence they gained from last weekend's sweep, they hung tough throughout. After denying the Scarlet Knights game point, the Quakers came back to tie Rutgers at 14-14. Rutgers won the side-out and subsequently regained a 15-14 lead. Yet again, the Red and Blue denied Rutgers' bid for a victory in the first game by regaining the serve. After tying the game at 15-15, Penn eventually lost its serve, and Rutgers went on to win 17-15. Afterward, Rutgers cruised to victory, winning the last two games 15-4 and 15-7, respectively. Although the box score indicates Penn lost 3-0, the Quakers capitalized defensively and, most importantly, attained their pre-contest goals. After being expected to win last weekend, Penn made the transition from favorite to underdog three days later. In the process, however, the Quakers did not lose any momentum heading into this weekend's Yale Tournament.