PHILADELPHIA - Freshman Kara Bonenberger became just the third Big 5 Rookie of the Year in the history of the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball program when the Philadelphia conference announced its 2011-12 All-Big 5 teams on Tuesday. But Bonenberger is also the second straight Quaker to earn the honor, which is voted upon by the coaching staffs and media. Sophomore Alyssa Baron, who was named first-team All-Big 5 for the second straight year, won the Rookie of the Year accolade in 2010-11.
Prior to the tenure of third-year head coach Mike McLaughlin, the only Penn player to win Big 5 Rookie of the Year honors was the program's all-time scoring, rebounding and steals leader, Diana Caramanico in 1997. Since McLaughlin took over in 2009-10, both of his recruiting classes have produced the Big 5 Rookie of the Year.
In addition, senior Jess Knapp will take home two awards at the Big 5 banquet. She was selected to receive the 2011-12 Big 5 Sportsmanship Award and was also named to the Academic All-Big 5 team.
Bonenberger earned the Big 5's top rookie honor this year after she finished second in the Ivy League in field goal percentage and led the Quakers in rebounding and blocks. She started 12 games in her rookie campaign and finished second on the team in scoring. Both of Bonenberger's double-doubles came against City Six opponents and her six blocks in the win over Dartmouth on Feb. 24 was one off the single-game school record. For her efforts, Bonenberger was a four-time Ivy Rookie of the Week and earned Big 5 Player of the Week honors on Dec. 26.
Baron adds her 2011-12 first-team All-Big 5 selection to a long list of career honors. In just two seasons in a Penn uniform, Baron is a two-time All-Ivy recipient, a six-time Ivy Player of the Week and three-time Big 5 Player of the Week. Baron is Penn's first back-to-back first-team All-Big 5 recipient since Jewel Clark's three straight selections (2002-04). This season, she followed up her Ivy League and Big 5 Rookie of the Year campaign with another Ivy League scoring title (in 2010-11, she became the first freshman in league history to lead the Ivies in scoring).
Baron, who finished in the top 10 of the Ivy League in seven different categories, was also a 2011-12 second-team All-Ivy pick. She led the league in minutes played and led the Quakers in made field goals (160), made threes (42), made free throws (110), assists (68) and steals (55). She also had seventh-best single-season free throw percentage (.803) in program history and was second on the team with 155 rebounds.
The Sportsmanship Award winner, Knapp, played the final 13 games of her career on two torn ligaments in her left knee. The Carlstadt, N.J., native tore her ACL and MCL on December 30 and missed just five games before returning to the floor. She started the final nine games for Penn and led the team in rebounding six times in that span. Knapp, who also earned Academic All-Ivy accolades on April 4, holds a 3.25 GPA as a psychology major at Penn.
Penn (13-15, 6-8 Ivy) finished with its highest win total since the 2004-05 season. In addition to the best 10-game start in school history, the Quakers opened 5-0 at home for the first time in eight years and set a program record with seven wins before the month of January. Penn's seven non-conference wins tied for fourth-most in school history. The Quakers also swept a road weekend for the first time in five seasons and posted back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since 2003-04 and 2004-05.
Off the court, Penn raised more than $4,000 for various charities.
Tickets are being sold for the Big 5 banquet on April 25 at Drexelbrook. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased by emailing the Big 5 at firstname.lastname@example.org.