The women's basketball team compiled a dismal 5-22 overall record
last season, yet somehow eluded last place in the Ivy League with a
3-11 mark, beating out both Yale and Columbia.
But coach Pat Knapp has already put on the blinders.
"Our mentality is that we have moved forward. We aren't thinking about that anymore," he said.
"We are not really thinking about that," All-Ivy honorable mention guard Joey Rhoads agreed.
Now that the team has successfully self-induced amnesia, it is time for everyone else to follow suit.
The Red and Blue enters the 2006 season excited, rejuvenated and hoping for an Ivy League title run.
"I'm very optimistic," Knapp said. "Even over the last eight or nine days [of practice], we have improved."
With their season opener at Lehigh just hours away, the players are also exuding confidence.
"We have good chemistry this year," senior guard Lauren Pears said.
"We have an extra year of experience and a lot of the same people back.
We have become a lot closer on the court and are communicating better."
Pears, along with fellow seniors Rhoads, Monica Naltner and Ashley
Gray, have played a tremendous role in the team's improved cohesiveness
on the court.
"I think our four seniors are doing a great job," Knapp said. "From
there, you have a great effort every day, experience, leadership. That
is a major key."
Aside from the intangibles, the seniors will be the core of the
team's production on the court this season. The 5-foot-4 Rhoads,
accountable for about a quarter of Penn's points a year ago, will
continue to anchor the offense. She will get help on the perimeter from
Pears, who returns to the hardwood for the first time since her
season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear last December.
Meanwhile, Naltner will try to fill the large void left by 6-3
recent graduate Jennifer Fleischer - the fourth-best rebounder and
second-best shot blocker in Penn history.
"I think Monica is one of the best players in the Big 5 and the
[Ivy] League that can go inside and outside and have that flexibility,"
Knapp said of his 5-11 forward.
Based on preseason practices, Naltner can expect help in the post
from a pair of 6-2 sophomores: Katarina Lackner and Maggie Burgess.
"We just need to rip rebounds," Knapp emphasized. "Good rebounders go up in a crowd and get rebounds."
Sophomores Kelly Scott and Anca Popovici are also expected to be
seriously considered for starting positions. Scott already gained
experience in that role from her freshman campaign, when she started 13
games. Popovici also started twice.
Glancing ahead on the schedule, Penn can look forward to two 2006
NCAA Tournament teams - Big 5 rival Temple and Ivy League tri-champion
Dartmouth twice - and the daunting task of playing seven of its last
nine games away from the Palestra.
After games at Lehigh and Rider, the Quakers host La Salle on Nov. 21 for their home and Big 5 opener.