By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
University Park, PA - The Lady Lions got out to a strong and fast start as they opened the season with two wins over the weekend. But the squad will get their first true test of the young season when they take their 2-0 record on the road to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Wednesday.
With the Lady Volunteers currently ranked in the top five nationally, head coach Coquese Washington is looking forward to the opportunity that her team has in front of them. With the chance to play against a team that will push them to play their best, Washington hopes her team enjoys the moment.
it's a lot of fun to have these kind of games, these kind of opportunities, to
come and to play at Tennessee, to play some of the teams we've played over the
past few years," Washington said. "That's the fun part about playing this game;
to go to Knoxville and have that opportunity, it's just a lot of fun and I know
our kids are excited about it."
The last time the Lady Lions faced Tennessee was in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2003 NCAA Tournament, when Tennessee won 86-58. So while this will be the first time anyone on the team will be facing the Lady Volunteers, thanks to AAU basketball it won't be the first time many of the players will be facing each other on the court. Washington hopes that this familiarity will help eliminate any nerves her players may have before playing against a ranked opponent.
"They know each other [from] AAU and travel basketball, they've played against each other before, so they're familiar," Washington said. "They know each other, they text each other, so it's much different than it was a few years ago when you didn't know people. These kids have played against each other so there's a little bit of a familiarity there and it's just another game."
With the season still only being in its opening week, Washington and her staff don't have a lot of current game footage to go over and analyze leading into Wednesday's contest. But even with limited game tape, Washington knows that Tennessee will be a challenge on all fronts.
"Tennessee is really talented, they're really deep and they're a very athletic team in all positions," Washington said. "They've got good size, good speed, good athleticism, and they shoot the ball well so it's just a very talented team and they have pretty balanced scoring. Those kinds of things present challenges when you have a talented team, a deep team, and they get contributions from a number of people. So it's not just one person you look at and go 'oh, she's the key'; it's a full team effort with them."
Washington has high expectations for her team, namely being more aggressive and committing less turnovers, but the bottom line for her is to see them compete and play to the best of their ability. And playing against a team such as the Lady Volunteers, Washington is using this game as a gauge as to how Penn State will need to improve come tournament time.
"I just want to see us compete; I want to see us be able to execute the things that we're capable of executing," Washington said. "It's a great measuring stick for us early in the season to see where we need to be in March."
Penn State and Tennessee are set to meet Wednesday at the Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip is set for 8 p.m. ET.