Penn Seeks to Return to the Top of the Ivy League

Penn vs. Lehigh Game Notes

PHILADELPHIA - Five seniors leave and six freshmen fill in behind them. That is the situation for the Penn women’s basketball team in 2005-06. The need to replace a collective 25.7 points per game, including the program’s sixth-most prolific scorer and the team’s floor general, is coupled with two simple facts – three of five starters have graduated and there are as many freshmen on the team as there are seniors. On the surface, it may look as if the Quakers have a huge challenge in front of them. This may be true, but the upcoming campaign also gives the Red and Blue a chance for true success.

The Quakers will find out in the season opener against Lehigh Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. The Quakers have dominated the series in recent years, as it has been since 1998 since the Mountain Hawks came out victors.

But to win the season opener, it is evident that Penn will need to replace offensive output with the likes of Karen Habrukowich (13.1 ppg) and Cat Makarewich (.424 three-point pct.) no longer donning the Red and Blue. Second-year coach Patrick Knapp and his staff are looking for that offensive output and leadership not only from their three seniors, but also a corps of leaders sprinkled throughout each academic class.

Joey Rhoads leads a talented junior class onto the court in 2005-06. Her aggressive play with the ball and tenacious defense will only solidify her leadership role on this year’s squad. She will play the point, but will also see time at the shooting-guard spot. Rhoads takes over for the graduated Amanda Kammes who led the Quakers last season with 103 assists. Rhoads, a native of Huntingdon Valley, Pa. and a graduate of Germantown Academy, proved she can come through in a starting role in three games in 2004-05.

Starting against Marist, Yale and Princeton, Rhoads scored 11, 16 and 15 points, respectively, an average of 14.0 points per game. More importantly, she dished 14 assists.

“Joey is our leader on the court. She has brought, and will continue to bring, offensive and defensive improvement to the team,” commented Knapp.

Rhoads is part of a very talented junior class, which also includes Lauren Pears, Ashley Gray and Monica Naltner. As freshmen, these four logged a combined 830 minutes of court time. As sophomores, the quartet amassed a combined 1,907 minutes, a 129-percent increase. In the simplest of terms – these players have the skill, drive and experience to lead the Red and Blue in 2005-06.

Pears will continue to log heavy minutes at the guard position this year. The Mechanicsburg, Pa. native has made tremendous strides during the off-season. In doing so, she has complemented her already excellent defensive skills with a more crisp offensive game from mid-range and the outside. Pears made her presence felt on defense last year, leading the Red and Blue in steals on four occasions and finished the season with 16.

Providing even more support to the Penn backcourt will be sophomores Brilynne Parrish and Kimberly Franklin. Both have been working hard during the off-season and summer months and will play a role in the Red and Blue offense.

Naltner will lead at the forward position. The Cincinnati, Ohio native started all but one game in 2004-05 and recorded her first career double-double in a 51-50 win at Cornell on February 12. Naltner provides a dominating and aggressive presence on the court, whether the Quakers have the ball or are trying to get it back. She has improved her already solid offensive skills with a more accurate shot from 15 feet and beyond the three-point line. Naltner averaged 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last year and will look to raise both averages in 2005-06.

Gray will likely play at the four position, one of two forwards on the floor. She saw action in 17 games during her sophomore campaign. Gray scored a career-high six points against Dartmouth and grabbed a career-high six boards against Princeton.
“Ashley is a very good cutting and slashing player. Putting her at the four spot will provide a great mix and match with Monica this season,” commented Knapp.

Naltner and Gray will have leadership with them and behind them this season, as Rachel Wilson should provide key support at the four position. A capable leader on and off the court; Knapp believes she may be one of the best leaders on the team. Wilson made vast improvements on offense during her junior season after missing her entire sophomore campaign with a knee injury.

The center position will again be controlled by Jennifer Fleischer. The powerful post player is coming off an All-Big 5 performance during the 2004-05 season and is poised to put her mark on the Penn record book. Fleischer is sitting just outside the top-five all-time in rebounding with 598 career caroms. The senior from New Hartford, N.Y. is also just three blocks from passing former teammate Jewel Clark for third on the all-time list. Fleischer currently has 80 career swats.
Fleischer did not rest on last season’s production over the summer, despite being the only Ivy League player to average a double-double for the season with 10.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Instead, she was one of 21 current and former Penn student-athletes to participate in the 17th Annual Maccabiah Games held in Israel. Fleischer led the USA Women’s Basketball Team to the gold medal with a 78-53 win over Israel in the championship game.Fleischer recorded a double-double in that game, amassing 20 points and 18 rebounds.

“Fleisch’s rebounding speaks for itself. Her additional ability to be aware of the double teams that are going to come at her, and the vision to pass out of those double teams, will only strengthen her already dominating presence under the basket,” praised Knapp.

Fleischer averaged 35.2 minutes per game as a junior, so there will be a need for solid support when she comes to the bench. This is where Henley Hansen steps in. Hansen has a fluid shot and has worked on improving her defensive mobility during the off-season. She will look to battle with the Ivy League’s and Big 5’s low-post players throughout the upcoming year.

Now back to the beginning, where the six freshmen were discussed. These young women will have the chance to come in and make an immediate impact. Rookies Maureen “Mo” Mannion (5-9) and Anca Popovici (5-7) will provide depth at point guard. Mannion started 92 consecutive games during her high school career, a record at Christian Brothers Academy, and Popovici ran the point her entire career at Mount de Chantal in West Virginia and also this summer with the Romanian National Team.

Kelly Scott is another guard who will bring some firepower to the Quakers off the bench. Scott is a good shooter, especially from long range. Scott lettered all four years at Horace Mann, then earned all-league honors during her one season at the Blair Academy in New Jersey.

The three remaining freshmen – Carrie Biemer, Maggie Burgess and Katarina Lackner – will solidify the forward position for the Red and Blue. Biemer has the pure ability to score, having amassed 1,471 career points at Haddonfield High School, while Burgess is a smooth shooter with a quality foul-line jumper and the ability to pass from the post. Lackner averaged a double-double during her senior campaign at the Sewickly Academy, with 16 points and 11 rebounds per game, to go along with an impressive six blocked shots her contest. Her pure ability has been enhanced with the work she put in over the summer.

Penn’s schedule continues to test the team’s resolve, with the likes of NCAA power Temple and Rice on the docket, as well as Washington and Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) regular-season champion Marist. Four members of the Patriot League will tip it off against the Quakers in 2005-06, as well. All this, and Penn still needs to face seven highly competitive and talented Ivy teams, not once but twice. The entire League has improved throughout and there is no longer a top and bottom group of teams.

Penn has the experience at all positions to have success in 2005-06. A tough non-conference schedule will prepare the Red and Blue for the grueling Friday-Saturday format of the Ivy League. Capturing the program’s third title in six years will be a challenge, but the Penn women’s basketball team would not have it any other way.

Download: WBB-Lehigh Notes.pdf