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From Spoiler to Champion?

The women’s basketball team could earn its first Ivy crown. By Noel Hynd

Keep your eyes on Penn women’s basketball this winter. A new head coach and a large group of veterans could combine to take Penn to the top of the Ivy League ladder. (Gosh, it would be fun to see both men’s and women’s hoops playing in the NCAAs). The new coach, Kelly Greenberg, is no stranger to Philadelphia. She attended Archbishop Wood High School and La Salle University, where she captained the women’s basketball team to a 28-3 overall record and led it to a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament in 1989. Before coming to Penn, she had been an assistant coach at Holy Cross for seven years.
    Greenberg looks to make an immediate impact on the Philadelphia basketball scene. "I am very proud to return to the city where I grew up," she said recently. "It is even more exciting to have so many players returning from last season and a strong class of rookies coming into Penn this year."
    The Quakers were picked No. 1 in the Ivy League preseason poll, selected by the league’s media back in October, which gives Greenberg an extra challenge. Penn has never won an Ivy crown in women’s basketball.
    There are reasons for optimism this year, however. Two of them are junior Diana Caramanico and senior Mandy West.
    Caramanico, a former Ivy League and Philadelphia Big 5 Player of the Year, led the Ivy League in scoring (22.7 ppg) and rebounding (12.8 rpg) last season. She has also been named a USA Today Preseason Third Team All-American, an ATHLON Preseason Third Team All-American and a USWBA Preseason Second Team All-American. She starts her junior season as Penn’s fifth all-time leading scorer with 1,114 points.
    Mandy West was First Team All-Ivy League last season. She complemented Caramanico’s scoring during her first season at Penn by averaging 19.9 points per game and hitting 64 treys from the point-guard position. Both players know how to score, but their leadership and ability to teach others are elements that also figure into this year’s equation.
    In all, seven members of last year’s team, which finished third in the Ivies, are returning. Juniors Erin Ladley and Jessica Allen join Caramanico and West in the starting rotation again this year and look to provide a more balanced scoring attack. Sophomore Julie Epton also saw major time last season as a rookie. Epton has a good short-range shot, finishing her first season as a Quaker shooting 46 percent from the floor and 81 percent from the free-throw line. And behind these experienced players, there is a talented freshman class.
    Putting all these new pieces together will be one of the more challenging aspects of Greenberg’s first season. The Quakers finished strong last year, winning five of their last six games, including a huge win at Princeton that forced Princeton to settle for a tie with Dartmouth for first in the Ivy League. Penn was the spoiler last season. Greenberg and her squad are looking to take it to the next level this year.
    Two issues ago, this column ruminated on the possibilities of league championships for both football and women’s soccer—neither of which came to pass.
    Still, women’s soccer finished 13-3-1 overall and 6-1 in the Ivy League, finishing in second place. They didn’t lose a game—or even allow a goal—all season at home. The team also received its first-ever invitation to the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament. They lost in the first round to the Dukes of James Madison University—appearing in their fifth straight tournament—in a 1-0 game that could easily have gone either way. Look for a return to the NCAAs for an even more experienced Penn squad next year.
    The football team went into the final day of league play with a 4-2 Ivy record and a chance at a share of the title if (a) they could win their own game against Cornell at Franklin Field, (b) Columbia would beat Brown and (c) Harvard would beat Yale. It was a day of bad pigskin karma, however. As they say in standardized testing, choices (a), (b) and (c) were all answered incorrectly. Yale and Brown (!!!) both won to share the league championship, while Penn lost to Cornell 20-12.
    The loss overshadowed a record day by Penn’s quarterback, sophomore Gavin Hoffman, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 244 yards. He finished the year with Penn single-season records in completions (183), attempts (336) and yards gained (2,328 yards). Penn, fourth in the Ivies (4-3, 5-5 overall), also had five players named to the 1999 All-Ivy team: Seniors Carmelo Rubano, Kris Ryan, Mike Germino, Jim Hisgen and Anthony DeSalle. Ryan, despite only two carries in the last two games of the season following an ankle injury, became the sixth Quaker to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season (1,197).
    Finally, some noteworthy performances in two often-overlooked sports:
    In field hockey, Penn seniors Leah Bills and Maureen Flynn were named to the 1999 All-Ivy League Team. Bills, who earned All-Ivy second-team honors, led the Quakers in overall scoring with nine goals and 19 points. Bills was also named a 1999 AstroTurf/National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division I All-American and a Mid-Atlantic Region second-team selection. Flynn was an honorable mention All-Ivy selection.
    And in Collegiate Sprint Football, Penn senior running back Tim Ortman was named the CSFL Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season. Ortman, a team tri-captain, led the league and set a Penn single-season record with 1,218 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns (14 rushing and two receiving). Ortman finished his career as Penn’s all-time leading rusher with 3,670 yards. He owns the top three single-season and six of the top seven single-game rushing totals in school history. A three-time CSFL Offensive Player of the Week selection during the 1999 season, Ortman helped lead Penn to 5-1 overall and 3-1 CSFL records and a second-place league finish behind Army.

Noel Hynd C’70 writes on sports for the Gazette.


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