Personal Connections Drive Excitement for Annual Pink Zone Game

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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions will play in the annual Pink Zone game this Sunday against Michigan and honor breast cancer survivors for the eleventh straight year.

The Pink Zone game has become a staple of Penn State's season, and being a part of it means a lot to players and coaches alike. Team captains Peyton Whitted and Sarah McMurtry have both been personally affected by breast cancer, so playing in the game has added meaning.

"I've been affected by breast cancer so just being able to play a game to remember people like my grandmother and also the other survivors and people that are affected by it as well are really big," Whitted said.

Added McMurtry: "My mom survived breast cancer and just to have one of the biggest Pink Zone games in women's basketball means so much. Raising awareness, raising money, playing for something bigger than ourselves means a ton for me personally."

Playing in her fourth and final Pink Zone game, Whitted has seen the game grow and change over the years. But the one thing that stays the same is the excitement leading up to and during the game.

"For me, it's been big every year but I think it just means so much more as each year goes by and there's more people that come, I feel like I've seen new faces each year," Whitted said. "Then just on top of that, you get different feels each time it comes around and it makes it just more exciting to play in the game." 

Head coach Coquese Washington has also seen the game grow in her time at Penn State, and loves that her team gets to be a part of it year after year.

"It's been really cool to see how much it's grown over the years and how it's grown from an event to truly a cause," Washington said. "The game [is] just a fantastic memory for so many people, and you see what's going to happen on Sunday and 600-plus survivors on the floor, that's going to be so cool and just to know that we're a part of it, it's a lot of fun." 

The activities don't conclude at the final buzzer, with a reception happening in the team's practice gym following the game. There, survivors get to join the players for food and conversation, and the players pink jerseys are auctioned off.

"That's one of the highlights of the season, the live auction of the jerseys and then going in and having a reception with the survivors, it's amazing the stories that we hear in that room, it's really empowering," Washington said.

As game time inches closer, Washington says she doesn't have a special message for her players for this particular game. Instead, with the rich tradition of the Pink Zone game in the Lady Lion program, she lets the stories of survivors dictate the significance. 

"One of the things about breast cancer it just seems like everybody has a personal connection, whether it's a family member or close friend, it seems that everybody has a story about how breast cancer has impacted their lives or their family," Washington said. "So rallying as a group and as a program behind this cause is just something that's a part of our program and it's in the fabric of what we do." 

The Pink Zone game will take place on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. It'll be the last game for the Lady Lions in the BJC this season before they head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament.

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