Weekend sweep for Women's Hoops - plus setbacks for Yale and Cornell - put Ivy title up for grabs
The Penn women's basketball team boarded the bus in New Haven, Conn.
having hit a new low. The game was theirs. They had a 20-point lead.
Then the Elis bullied their way back, clinching the game with 6.9
Final score: Yale 53, Penn 52. The Quakers' conference record: 1-4. That was a year ago Sunday. That season was over.
What a difference a year makes. When the buzzer sounded Saturday
evening at the Palestra, there was a very different reaction from the
Penn squad as it bounded off the bench, embracing one another and
celebrating a decisive victory.
Final score: Penn 70, Yale 57. The Quakers' conference record: 3-2.
With the win over Brown on Friday, the third consecutive Ivy victory
for Penn, the Quakers now sit in third place in the Ivy League
standings - right in the thick of things.
"It's definitely nice to get an Ivy sweep," senior guard and
tri-captain Joey Rhoads said after the Yale game, beaming and elated.
"It's the first time since our sophomore year. We feel confident. We're
just taking it one game at a time. We can do it."
Unprompted, head coach Pat Knapp quickly seconded the assessment: "Yes, we can."
This is the new attitude visited upon Penn as it prepares for its last nine games - seven of which are away from the Palestra.
And this is the attitude Penn will likely need when it tries to
knock off reigning champion Dartmouth (3-2 Ivy) and current Ivy
co-leader Harvard (4-1) on the road this weekend.
"We know the Ivy race is wide open this year," Rhoads said after the Brown victory.
That was evidenced just minutes later, when her coach interrupted
the press conference to inquire about the Princeton score. The Tigers
would complete a sweep of the weekend, but that was the same team the
Quakers hung with a month ago before finally falling 78-72.
Penn's other Ivy loss on the season came at the hands of Cornell,
67-58, when Penn gave up an early 16-point lead, but had pulled the
game even with less than six to play.
Just one season after posting an abysmal 5-22 (3-11 Ivy) record,
having a shot to capture the Ivy League "is a motivation," Knapp said.
"We have discussed it all week."
To put things in perspective, last spring Brown, Princeton and
eventual Ivy League champion Dartmouth finished atop the standings with
only two losses apiece.
Almost midway through this year, no Ivy team's record is unblemished, and only Princeton and Harvard have one loss.
No team is invulnerable. Cornell entered last weekend with a perfect
Ivy record and Yale was the only Ivy to boast an overall winning
record. In just over 26 hours, both schools plummeted back into
mediocrity after suffering weekend sweeps.
"We play at home next weekend, and we need to get back on the
winning track," a displeased Yale coach Chris Gobrecht said after her
team's loss to Penn. "We performed better than anybody in the Ivy
League in the preseason. We need to learn what it means to be that
quality of a team and have people gunning for us, as opposed to people
not respecting Yale as they have in the past."
In Penn's case, flying under the radar has not been a problem. But
if the Quakers pick up a sweep in northern New England this weekend,
the target might move to their backs.