Critics say, "Repeating is the hardest thing to do." The reason being that you are now the one with the target on your back and the possible element of surprise you may have had during the previous season is gone along with last year's graduating class.
There is another way to look at the ability to repeat. Practice is repetition, the act of repeating a motion, move or skill enough times until it becomes second nature. And critics also say, "Practice makes perfect." So to use logic, if repeating is the hardest thing to do and practice makes perfect, then the Penn women's basketball team may feel that the perfect end to the 2004-05 season would be to repeat as Ivy League champions and return to the NCAA Tournament.
The 2003-04 version of the Quakers raced out to a 7-0 record in the Ancient Eight, eventually concluding the regular season with a 17-10 mark and an 11-3 League record en route to their second conference title in four years. The Red and Blue met the eventual three-time defending NCAA Champion Connecticut Huskies in the first round of the East Regional, earning the respect of their opponent and once again, garnering national attention for the women's basketball program.
All who follow the Red and Blue women's hoops squad realize the ingredients that are gone from last year's championship team - the second-leading scorer in Penn history and the only coach to bring League championship to The Palestra. But returning for the defending champs are three-of-five starters and 14 student-athletes, including the third-most prolific shot blocker in Quakers history.
New to the Penn squad are a trio of rookie guards and a new head coach that has 21 years of collegiate experience. Former Georgetown skipper Patrick Knapp takes over the reigns after 18 years at the helm in Washington D.C. Knapp, a Pennsylvania native, took the Hoyas to the Women's National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in four of the last six seasons and looks to continue the growing tradition for the Quakers in his return to Philadelphia.
Coach Knapp knows in order for Penn's success to continue his team needs to be a cohesive unit on and off the floor.
"It is extremely important to have the young women to play together. We are going to stress team defense and moving and sharing the ball offensively," said Knapp.
"We need to communicate on the floor on everything from where you're going on offense to helping on defense to communicating ideas on the court, on the bench and in the locker room. It is a team game and you usually find success when you play together as a team."
In order to begin to breakdown Penn's upcoming season, one needs to look no further than the position in which the team is most deep - guard. The Quakers return a corps of five seniors with four at guard. In total, six guards will comprise the Red and Blue's back court in 2004-05. In addition, three newcomers come to Penn at the position.
Senior Karen Habrukowich leads the way, returning from an injury-shortened season. Habrukowich was the second-leading scorer in 2003-04, averaging 9.6 ppg last year, dropping in 11.9 points per Ivy contest, and now stands with 864 points for her career. The Newton, Pa. native has averaged 288 points per season in three years at Penn and a similar effort in 2004-05 would make her the 15th member of women's basketball's 1000-point club. Habrukowich had 10 games where she scored in double figures last year with a season-high 23 points against Cornell on Feb. 14.
Adding some pop to Penn's point total last season was Joey Rhoads. The Huntingdon Valley, Pa. native averaged 6.9 ppg during her rookie campaign and showed her true scoring potential in a late-season showdown at Columbia when she scored 17 in just 11 minutes of play during the first half. Rhoads became only the fifth Quaker to be named to the Ivy League All-Rookie Team, finishing fifth in scoring for Penn.
Another senior that played significant minutes last season and could vie for a starting spot is Cat Makarewich. Throughout the year she remained one of Penn's top three-point threats, averaging 42.4 percent from beyond the arc, just .03 percent behind team leader Habrukowich.
Adding depth at shooting guard will be senior and 2003-04 tri-captain Maria DiDonato who was 22-for-66 from the outside (33.3 percent), as well as newcomers Kimberly Franklin (South Lakes/Reston, Va.), Brilynne Parrish (Seneca Valley/Germantown, Md.) and Andrea Wright (Eleanor Roosevelt/ Bowie, Md.).
Passing the rock for the Quakers will be senior point guard Amanda Kammes. Kammes led the Quakers and the Ivy League with 3.5 assists per game last season with a career-high 10 dimes twice. Sophomore Lauren Pears will serve as floor general during times of rest for Kammes. She appeared in seven games last season.
Penn returns six forwards to the front court in 2004-05. Last year, the Quakers ran a three-guard offense, leaving the duty of forward to 2003-04 Ivy League and Philadelphia Big 5 Player of the Year Jewel Clark (C'04) who graduated this past spring with a degree in English and is now playing professionally in Greece. This year the Red and Blue may use a pair of forwards on the floor at the same time with the return of sophomore Monica Naltner and Ashley Gray.
Naltner played in 26-of-28 games for Penn last year and notched a career-high 10 points in the regular-season finale against Harvard at The Palestra. Gray participated in seven contests for the Quakers last year but is a pure rebounder and could provide a presence down low and also an offensive threat from mid-range.
Looking to provide an impact off the bench at forward will be Jenna Markoff, who appeared in 10 games after transferring from Parkland College for her sophomore season. Also working for floor time will be juniors Henley Hansen, Rachel Wilson and Teresa Fallon. Wilson missed all of the 2003-04 season due to a knee injury.
At center, junior Jennifer Fleischer returns after a breakout sophomore campaign. Fleischer, a native of New Hartford, N.Y., finished the year third in scoring for the Quakers with 8.9 ppg and led the squad in rebounding (9.6 rpg) and blocks (1.4 bpg). Her 49 career swats ranks fourth all-time at Penn. Fleischer recorded eight double-doubles a year ago and proved that she was a true force in the middle at The Palestra against Columbia on Feb. 13. The second-team All-Ivy honoree registered career-highs in points (19) and rebounds (18) in an 81-70 win over the Lions.
Another true weapon that Penn has in its arsenal at the center position is senior Katie Kilker. Kilker, a 6'2 native of Langhorne, Pa., has an 11.2 ppg career-scoring average and has pulled down 6.2 boards per contest since joining the Quakers at the beginning of the 2001-02 season. Kilker saved her best for last, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting in Penn's first-round game against UConn at the 2004 NCAA Tournament.
With both Fleischer and Kilker at the center position, it may be beneficial for the Quakers to utilize the pair's size (Fleischer is the tallest Quaker at 6'3) and ability at the same time. Putting Kilker at the four position would give the Red and Blue twin towers in the paint, a sight not to be welcomed by any opponent in or outside of the Ivy League, and a great opportunity for Penn to improve on its impressive 67.4 points allowed per game in 2003-04.
The Quakers' schedule of opponents is also something to be excited about as November steadily approaches. Penn posted a 15-9 record last season against teams on the docket this year. The schedule proves that the Red and Blue are not about to shy away from nationally-respected institutions as seven 2004 NCAA Tournament invitees will step onto the hardwood against the Quakers in 2004-05.
Penn will face two of the seven at one venue when the Quakers travel westward for the University of Colorado Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 26-27). The Red and Blue open the tourney with host Colorado and follow with either Maryland or LSU. Maryland was a "Sweet-16" squad a year ago and ended its season with a loss to the Lady Tigers as LSU advanced all the way to the Final Four in New Orleans.
Other key dates to mark on the calendar are Dec. 7 and 13 when Penn welcomes Temple and Ohio State to The Palestra within one week of each other.
Penn opens the Ivy season on the road, traveling to Yale and Brown on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29, respectively. Harvard highlights the home League schedule when it comes to Philadelphia on Feb. 4 in a match-up between the winners of the last four Ancient Eight crowns.
Coach Patrick Knapp has inherited a team that has one goal in mind every time out on the court - winning - and he is fully aware of the drive of everyone wearing red and blue.
"I am very excited about these young women that are returning. I have been told by a number of people since the day I became involved with the program that these student-athletes love to play, work hard and love to win. I haven't seen anything different from them and that is a major plus for me," commented Knapp.
The Penn women's basketball team heads into the fall preparing to begin the journey through the preseason. It is preparing for the highly competitive non-conference schedule. It is preparing for seven conference opponents that want what the Quakers currently hold so dear. It is preparing to repeat as Ivy League champions.
Written by Mat Kanan, associate director of athletic communications
Download: 04-05 prospectus.pdf