Penn, St. Joseph's women ready for NCAA tournament

Posted: March 24, 2014

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It's time for Penn and St. Joseph's to get back to work Sunday, when the two Big Five women's teams open play in the NCAA tournament.

Penn (22-6), a 12th seed, meets No. 5 Texas (21-11) 30 minutes after Maryland plays Army (12:30 p.m.) at the Comcast Center as part of the Louisville Regional.

St. Joseph's (22-9), a ninth seed, meets No. 8 Georgia (20-11) at 5:30 p.m. at Gample Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., as part of the Lincoln (Neb.) Regional.

Since beating Princeton on the road almost two weeks ago to win the Ivy League title and Penn's first trip to the NCAA tournament in a decade, the Quakers have been stockpiling memorable moments.

"Cutting the nets down in the Palestra has to be one," senior Alyssa Baron said of the Quakers' return after beating the Tigers.

"We had a great selection Monday at the Palestra," said senior Meghan McCullough, a Notre Dame Academy graduate. "We held it in that great building that we get to practice in every day."

"Just walking around campus and having everyone so happy for us and congratulate us," freshman shot-blocking sensation Sydney Stipanovich said.

Although the Ivy League, in a basketball sense, is a world away from the Big 12, Texas coach Karen Aston doesn't think the two teams are that far apart in ability.

"When you watch film of Penn, I don't think we will consider ourselves a heavy favorite at all," she said. ". . . I think you just have to think about the teams that are going to line up and play, and I think it is going to be a really competitive game."

Penn coach Mike McLaughin, who went to a slew of NCAA Division II tournaments coaching Holy Family before joining the Quakers five years ago, discussed the keys for his team's advance.

"We have been the best on the offensive end when we got into a flow," he said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to establish that early and get some easy baskets. We do defend and work hard at the end of that court. Finishing the defensive segment with a rebound at the end is going to be a key for us tomorrow."

The St. Joe's matchup with Georgia is expected to be the more competitive game in that doubleheader: Connecticut hosts Prairie View after the Hawks' game, meaning coach Cindy Griffin's squad is again part of the undercard. The Hawks played at Storrs a year ago, losing by 60-54 to Vanderbilt.

Senior Erin Shields, an Archbishop Carroll product, will be looking to extend her career for at least one more game with the Hawks.

"I am very thankful for the second chance," Shields said, reflecting back to last season. "When you think back on your college career, you want to be able to remember the good times.

"Looking back, it was a great year, because we won the Atlantic 10, but this year we want to have a better showing and show what we have. Last year we were happy to be here."

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