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By Ryan Berti, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Finals may be approaching as the school year comes to a close, but it was a year of growth for the Penn State Lady Lions in the 2016-17 season. The squad experienced its first postseason play in three years with a WNIT berth and put up a school-record-tying 16 wins at home including the postseason, equaling the 2002-03 squad's total.


When looking back, head coach Coquese Washington said it was a good year and her favorite part was how the team continued to improve after each test the players faced.


"Over the course of the season, this team got a lot better," Washington said. "We were a better team in March than we were in November and that's a testament to the work they put in and their desire to be better, their desire to represent Penn State and represent this program at a high level."


At the heart of that constantly better unit was guard Teniya Page. Page, only a sophomore, was the team's undeniable leader on offense. She led the team in scoring with 618 total points on 44.5 percent shooting from the field and 44.1 percent from behind the 3-point line. Her ability to take over games was a huge benefit as her four 30-point outings propelled her to fourth all-time in the Penn State career rankings with five total. Her point total was the ninth-highest ever recorded by a Penn Stater in a single season, while her average of 19.9 points per game allowed her to claim the seventh-highest such average in program history.


These accomplishments did not go unnoticed, as Page was named an All-American honorable mention by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). With the bestowment, Page joined Kelly Mazzante as the only other Lady Lion to accomplish the feat as a sophomore.


Page, along with fellow guard Amari Carter, are expected to set the tone for the returning squad this upcoming season. Not only did the two set the tempo each and every game, but they were No. 1 and 2 on the team in assists and shared an incredible chemistry that Washington said words can't describe.


"They kind of have a secret language, a secret guard language, and they would have full conversations without ever saying a word," Washington said. "I think that chemistry is just going to make them that much more dangerous next year."


The talented guard duo, along with the rest of the young roster, will have to fill the shoes of a veteran trio in Peyton Whitted, Sierra Moore and Kaliyah Mitchell whose careers in Happy Valley have reached a close.


The three contributed in large amounts and leave gaps to fill across the board. Together, they combined for 23.3 point per game, 16.4 rebounds per game and averaged 1.3 blocks per game last season. Still, while it may be tough to see the seniors go, coach Washington says she is more proud of them than anything.


"I don't think you ever feel hurt to see the seniors go, it's more you're like a proud mother," Washington said. "They're 17-18 years old [when they arrive] and then they leave and they're young women. You look at how much they've grown, you look at how prepared they are to go out into the world and make a difference, and so I'm excited for them, I'm excited for their futures."


As summer approaches, Penn State will enjoy the summer while it can, but it won't be long before it's time to get back in the gym and start working towards an even better season in 2017-18. Next year shows a lot of promise with the number of returners and experienced young talent, but only time will tell what the squad will do once it steps back under the lights of the Bryce Jordan Center.


By Anna Pitingolo, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coquese Washington stresses the same thing every season, no matter how old her players are, no matter how much experience they have, no matter what: play your best basketball in March.

 As the Lady Lions bowed out of the 2017 WNIT with a third round loss to Virginia Tech on Thursday night, Washington looked back and could only say positive things on how her team closed out the season.

"When you look at our last ten games, we [have played very well]," Washington said. "I thought we continued to grow over the course of the season. As disappointing as this loss is right now, when you look at the totality of our season, this team has accomplished a lot."


After missing the postseason the last two years, the goal for Penn State this year was to get back into playing meaningful March basketball, which is exactly what it did.


"I'm really proud of how this program has grown over the course of one year," Washington said. "Where we were last year as compared to where we are now, there's no way I am going to sit here and bemoan the way this program has grown within the past twelve months."


With a young team this year, any postseason experience was a step in the right direction moving forward. Sophomore guard Teniya Page, who had a stellar sophomore season to follow up a record-breaking freshman campaign, says the team learned a lot about when it comes time to survive and advance.

"I think we learned that it's hard after the regular season. It's hard once it comes to win or go home," Page said. "Every team plays hard because it's potentially their last game. I think that's what I personally learned and I think as a young team that's what we learned." 

In the game, Page became the ninth Lady Lion to reach 600 points in a single season, ending the year with 618. Her 23 points on the night gave her double-digits for the 16th straight game as well and 1,107 points for her career, good for No. 31 on the all-time Lady Lion list.


As the team heads into the offseason, there's a lot they learned this year that they can carry over into the 2017-2018 season. And as long as the Lady Lions continue to grow, the sky is the limit.


"I'm really proud of what this team accomplished this year, especially with our team being so young. I think our future is really bright especially with the players we have returning," Washington said. "Like Teniya [Page] said, the team learned a lot about what postseason play means, what it's going to feel like and how you have to perform during the season, to perform better at this point in the season. I'm really proud of the kids."


The Lady Lions finish the year with a 21-11 record, including a 9-7 record in Big Ten play. Penn State thrived at the Bryce Jordan Center this season, finishing 16-2 at home with the only losses coming in the Big Ten opener versus Indiana and this WNIT loss to the Hokies.

By Anna Pitingolo, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions have successfully made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the 2017 WNIT after wins against Ohio and Fordham last weekend. As they prepare to take on Virginia Tech in the third round on Thursday, the team can still hold organized workouts.

 Advancing in the tournament has allowed Penn State to stay in the gym and continue to practice longer than if they had missed postseason play. The added time that they can spend on getting better is an added and unseen benefit of the postseason that most might not think about. 

"The practice is huge," said head coach Coquese Washington. "Especially when you look at Jaida [Travascio-Green] who got injured late in the season, so she missed a good two and a half weeks of practice with that high ankle sprain. So her being able to have this time to get back into the flow of things and work on some things and learn some things, [it's really beneficial]." 

Travascio-Green has seen the court in 29 games this season, starting in 14 of them. As a true freshman, Travascio-Green has never been in this situation before, but the experience of playing in the postseason has already been different than the regular season for her. 

"I think it's a good experience because of the 'lose and you're done' mentality," Travascio-Green said. "Every game is worth something and during the season, it's so long that you forget what you're working towards in the end, but in this, it's you lose and you're done for the season so the game are more high stakes." 

Washington agrees that playing in these types of games adds to the experience and knowledge that her players have. And with a young team (nine of the 13-woman roster are either sophomores or freshmen), this tournament run will only help them moving forward.

"Just playing in this environment is great," Washington said. "This group, we only played one game in the Big Ten Tournament, so being able to continue to play in the WNIT and play in that kind of pressure where you've got to win to advance, those experiences are invaluable for our younger kids."

Travascio-Green has been joined by her fellow freshman Siyeh Frazier as a contributor on the court over the past few games. Frazier played a career-high 18 minutes in the first round matchup against Ohio and scored a career-high 10 points. 

"Siyeh's been playing really good in practice for a few weeks," Washington said. "Getting the opportunity for some extra minutes in the WNIT has kind of given her more confidence because now she can see that work paying off and it's showing on game day."

Aside from the three seniors on the team, no one on the current team has every played in the postseason at Penn State. So, as redshirt Amari Carter said, these games have allowed the team to "get comfortable with what you're supposed to do in these situations."

"I think the experience from this tournament will help us going into next season and get into the postseason next year," Carter said. 

The Lady Lions will face the Virginia Tech Hokies on Thursday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Tip is set for 7 p.m.


By Anna Pitingolo, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- It's the time of year where the only thing on the mind of college basketball players around the country is 'survive and advance'. On Sunday the Lady Lions did just that when they beat the Fordham Rams 70-51 in the second round of the WNIT.

After another slow start kept them scoreless for the first three minutes, a situation almost identical to their first round game against Ohio, the Lady Lions closed out the first quarter on a 17-2 run, and never looked back.

"You can't always control whether or not the ball goes in the basket and I thought early on we got some good shots, they just didn't fall," said head coach Coquese Washington. "So our defense was good the first quarter and once we got a few baskets to fall, our defense stayed pretty high and allowed us to get out to a lead that first quarter."

The change in momentum came thanks to a lockdown defensive scheme that held the Rams to just four points in the first frame.

"I think it started with the defense, we got a couple of steals and then we were able to get in transition so I could kind of feel that we were starting to get momentum that way," said sophomore Teniya Page. "We were doing a good job of boxing out and running, so I think it was the defense."

Back-to-back steals from Amari Carter and Sierra Moore put the Lady Lions on the board to jumpstart a 12-0 run to put the Lady Lions up big. Carter ended the contest with a game-high four steals to go along with 15 points.

"I just take what the defense gives me," Carter said. "How they're playing us, whether they're going to double the screens or trap the screens or whatever they want to do. It just depends on how they play us [and that's how I play my game]."

Carter is playing in her first season for Penn State after redshirting last year because of a torn ACL she suffered in the first game.

Washington says that having Carter on the floor now is the difference maker from where the team was a year ago, when the Lady Lions missed the postseason after finishing below .500.

"There's no question one of the differences in the success of this team, and where we are at this point this year versus last year, is Amari Carter's presence," Washington said. "She's a dynamic player and having her on the court just makes us a better team. She gives us more options, she's so fantastic with handling the ball, finding teammates, and giving people easy plays."

Penn State will hope that Carter can continue her dominant play as the team will be without redshirt junior Lindsey Spann as it continues its postseason run, who will be out for the remainder of the year with an injury. Spann was averaging 10.5 points per game in 22.9 minutes per game.

The Lady Lions advance to the Sweet 16 of the WNIT for the first time since the team won it all in the inaugural WNIT in 1998 and will host Virginia Tech at the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday. Tip is set for 7 p.m.


By Ryan Berti, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the first postseason game for Penn State in three years, the Lady Lions stayed alive by beating the visiting Ohio Bobcats, 74-65, in the first round of the WNIT.

The Lady Lions were a little bit slow out of the gate, trailing 9-0 through just under three whole minutes of action. Head coach Coquese Washington realized the need for things to change and called a vital timeout.


"Really I said 'okay, now we've gotta get back,'" Washington said to her squad in the huddle. "'We've had a few minutes to get our legs up under us, to get a feel for how they're playing, now we've gotta adjust and we've gotta start executing and doing the things that we've practiced,' and we started to do that."


Penn State responded by knocking down the 10 of the next 12 buckets, including two consecutive three-pointers by Teniya Page and Jaida Travascio-Green to start the second quarter. With the surge, the Blue and White took the 22-15 lead, a lead they would not lost for the rest of the game.


A big part of the Lady Lions success was generated by a defensive switch from man to zone. From that point on, Penn State was able to close the inside of the perimeter and force the Bobcats to have to shoot from outside. On a normal night, this would play right into the hands of Ohio, who nationwide have hit the ninth most three-pointers (282) on the sixth most attempts (939). But on this night, the Lady Lions were able to contain them to just 3-21 shooting from behind the arc in the first three quarters of play.


"I thought maybe one or two of them I didn't love, but I mean we're one of the top ten three-point shooting teams in the country, so you've got to shoot them to make them. And we shot em, and unfortunately we didn't make them tonight," Bobcats head coach Bob Boldon said.


Penn State capitalized on their opponent's woes and took off, with the bench play providing the fuel. Led by Sierra Moore and Siyeh Frazier, the Lady Lions continued to coast throughout the majority of the game. By the game's end, the Blue and White would outscore the visitors 28-6 with their reserves.


The senior, Moore, finished just short of her 21-point career high with a season-high 20 points. She also collected six rebounds and two assists, making her first postseason game one to remember.


"I'm not surprised for Sierra," Washington said. "She plays hard every night, she's explosive, she's energetic and I knew she would come out and work really hard tonight to have a big game."


The freshman, Frazier, also made splashes as she chalked up her first double-digit outing as a collegiate student-athlete. Her 10 points made her one of four Lady Lions to do so on the night, and her performance sparked a wave of energy over the whole team as she wore her passion on her sleeve.


"She's been practicing really well," Washington said about Frazier. "She's got fresh energetic legs, gets out in transition for us. She got a couple of offensive rebounds that were big for us. It's good to see her progressing and being able to play with a lot of confidence at this point of the season."


Among other contributors, Amari Carter and Teniya Page joined Moore and Frazier in scoring double digits, while Page also recorded a career-high nine rebounds. The only teammate to top her in that department was Kaliyah Mitchell, who grabbed 10 boards and added eight points.


With everyone having a hand in the victory, the performance showed how versatile Penn State can be. In order to make a deep run in the tournament, it will take an all-around effort like that from everyone on the roster.


"We're a really unselfish team so whatever is working that night is what we go to, so if we have a different kind of matchup, that's what we go to," Moore said. "We have a lot of strengths on the team, and everyone can do a specific thing, so whenever it's their time to shine and do their role that they're good at, then that's what we're gonna do."


With the win, Penn State moves onto the second round where it will face the Fordham Rams. The game will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 19 at the Bryce Jordan Center. 


By Ryan Berti, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The year has seen its fair share of ups and downs, but the Lady Lions aim to end the season on a high-note with a bid to the Women's National Invitational Tournament.


Head Coquese Washington and her squad will be prepared to take on Ohio at the Bryce Jordan Center this Friday at 7 p.m. This marks the first time in postseason play for the Penn State since 2014, where the Lady Lions made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament.


This year's WNIT berth is the first for Penn State since 2010 and the third in program history. The Blue and White won the inaugural event back in 1998 and now boast a 4-1 record in tournament play. The Lady Lions will be just one of six teams competing that have won it all before, joining Missouri State (2005), Wyoming (2007), Oklahoma State (2012), Drexel (2013) and South Dakota (2016).


In the first round, Penn State has the task of trying to tame the visiting Ohio Bobcats. As one of five teams representing the Mid-American Conference, the Bobcats put up a 22-9 record while going 12-6 in conference play. During the regular season, Ohio split its games against Big Ten competition, defeating Illinois but falling to Michigan.

A key matchup in this contest to watch for is the high scoring guard play between the Penn State's Teniya Page and Ohio's Quiera Lampkins. Just 0.2 points per game separates these two in the national rankings, where Page sits 20th in the country with the exact same number of points per game, meanwhile Lampkins trails slightly behind at No. 24 in the nation with 19.8.


The Lady Lions will have to be careful with how they handle the ball against the Bobcats, as they hold the NCAA's 18th best turnover margin at a plus-5.9 clip. Penn State will hope the home atmosphere can counter that production, posting a 14-1 record at home. Ohio has found most of its woes when away from Athens, Ohio, going a combined 8-7 when away or at a neutral location.


If Penn State is able to pick up the win Friday night and advance, a matchup awaits with the winner of Georgetown (17-12, 9-9 Big East) or Fordham (21-11, 11-5 Atlantic 10).


Each team presents its own challenge and could prove to be an interesting adversary in the second round.


On one hand, Fordham has a very stingy defense. The Rams are the 16th best in the country at defending teams beyond the arc, limiting opponents to just 27.6 percent from deep. They also make sure teams have to earn their points, only allowing teams to score an average of 56.0 points per game, good for the No. 20 spot nationally. That should be a solid test for the Lady Lions offense that owns a top-50 offense with 73.3 points per game.


On the other hand, the Hoyas of Georgetown beat their opponents by creating opportunities while limiting the same for their foes. The Big East team ranks in the top 50 in the country in offensive rebounds per game (15 orpg, 29th), steals per game (9.7 spg, 47th) and turnover margin (+4.24, 34th). Don't expect them to cough the ball up either, as Georgetown commits the ninth fewest turnovers nationwide with just 370 over the year.


Penn State has played each in the last two seasons. The Hoyas bested the Lady Lions this year, 68-54, in the San Juan Shootout, while the Blue and White took out Fordham, 79-75, last season at home.


In the Lady Lions' only other WNIT appearances, they were a first round out (2010) and won it all (1998). It's a small sample size, but if the trend continues, this weekend's matchups could determine Penn State's postseason destiny. 

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By Anna Pitingolo, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions are headed back to the postseason for the first time since the 2013-2014 season. That year, veteran players Peyton Whitted and Kaliyah Mitchell were freshmen and saw time on the court in the NCAA tournament on a team that superstar Maggie Lucas led to the Sweet 16. 

Now leaders themselves, Whitted, Mitchell, Lindsey Spann, who did not play and redshirted in 2013-14, and Sierra Moore, who was in Happy Valley but sat out that season due to NCAA transfer rules, are ready to put what they learned in that postseason run to try and make another. 

"My freshman year showed me that when you work hard it pays off and you're able to keep playing," Mitchell said. "Looking at the [2013-14] seniors, it was what they wanted to do, just keep playing as long as possible. It was something that they worked towards, so I think now that I am in their shoes, it's helped me this season and let me know what I want to work towards."

Penn State will face Ohio in the first round of the WNIT on Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center. After missing out on postseason play the last two years, Whitted is excited to extend this season. 

"We're just happy to play some more. It's going to be really competitive. Ohio's a really competitive team so we're just looking to survive and advance," Whitted said. "It means a lot that we get to play past the Big Ten Tournament. That's exciting and I'm excited to keep playing. I want to play as long as I can while I'm here."

The four veterans have experienced the highs and lows of playing college basketball over the past four years. They went from contenders in the Sweet 16 to a 6-24 record the next season, before building the program back up to a team that is on the verge of the program's 27th 20-win season. Despite the adversity they've faced, there's nothing they would have wanted to change. 

"I learned a lot being on a great team and then being on a struggling team and now to bring us back to the success that we had my freshman year," Whitted said after Senior Day this year. "It's just a great life lesson because not everything is going to go perfect in your life so it's just about how you respond. I'm very appreciative for everything that's happened and I don't regret any of it because I've learned a lot from it."

Added Mitchell: "Honestly, being in that moment is really tough because a lot of things were going on. The season wasn't going right, my game wasn't at its best, so going through that also helps you at times like this to remember what you went through and how you don't want to go through that again." 

Head coach Coquese Washington is confident in her veteran players' ability to continue to lead the team. Both Whitted and Mitchell are team captains this year, and Washington agrees that their prior postseason experience will only help them in this year's tournament. 

"I think it'll be a really good experience for them, something for them to draw on," Washington said. "Now it's their turn to lead the charge and they've done a fantastic job this season, as I've said all along, of providing good leadership for us and helping us lead this young team back to postseason play so I know they'll be up for the challenge." 

Year in and year out, Washington preaches that she wants her players to play their best basketball in March. And with her team finally doing just that, she says there's a good vibe around the BJC. 

"You work hard during the regular season to be in a position to continue the season and continue to practice, continue to work on growing and building on a foundation, and it's a lot of fun, it's a lot of excitement and there's a good buzz in the gym," Washington said.

The first round of the WNIT tips at 7 p.m. on Friday in the BJC.   

By Jeff Sattora,
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- Despite a new career-high from their all-star point guard, the Penn State Lady Lions weren't able to claw out of an early hole, and fell to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 70-64 in the Big Ten Tournament Thursday night. 

On Monday, the sophomore standout point guard Teniya Page earned First Team All-Big Ten honors, and Thursday night in Indianapolis she played like a first team performer.

The guard dropped in 13 of the Lady Lions' 17 first quarter points, 12 of those points coming on 3-point field goals, keeping the Lady Lions in the game despite a hot start from the Golden Gophers, as Minnesota held a 26-17 lead after one.    

After Minnesota hit five 3's in the first and PSU turned the ball over seven times in that quarter, the script flipped as those numbers were zero and two respectively in the second.  Penn State used those numbers to its advantage, as they cut the deficit to just 33-29 at the break. 

"I think it just took us a quarter to kind of feel them out," Washington said on the switch between quarters. "Once we kind of figured out the game and the way the game was being called and things of that nature, we just kind of settled in."

The third saw the Lady Lions continue to fight, as they took their first lead of the game at 43-41 with 3:23 to play in the quarter. 

While the comeback attempt came up short, Washington was proud of how her team battled back from what was a 12-point Gophers' first half lead.  

"I think we really tried to rally back. Minnesota got off to a good start in the first quarter. And then I thought the second quarter our defense locked in pretty well and made it a game. And then we just competed down the stretch," she said. 

Leading that competitive charge was Page, who finished the night with a career-high and Penn State Big Ten Tournament record, 35 points on 11-22 shooting. 

"Just get to my spots, shoot, people were finding me," the guard said on how she was able to light up the score sheet.  "Attack the basket, that's pretty much it." 

 While Page's attacking style lit up the box score, another guard, Sierra Moore, also stepped up finishing with 13 points and 11 boards on the night for her first double-double of the season. 

Moore also credited an aggressive style for her success.

"I just kept crashing the boards," she said.  "I know Minnesota is one of the best rebounders in the conference so I knew I had to just keep going in their and keep fighting until the end."  

For Washington, the performance by those two is what made her team go. 

"They've been key players for us all season long. And they're the barometer. You know coming into every game that they're going to compete, they're going to fight. And they did the same thing," she said on her team's leaders tonight.  "I thought Sierra got some big offensive rebounds and made some big plays for us in the fourth quarter. And Teniya was fantastic all night. So those two certainly came with a lot of energy, a lot of effort and made a lot of big plays for us.

While Penn State didn't get the result they came to Indy looking for, they are hoping to continue postseason play in the NIT Tournament in the coming weeks.  

"it's something we've got to talk about as a team." Washington said.  "We're competitors and the opportunity to continue to play is something that we'll look forward to."


By Anna Pitingolo, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Teniya Page burst onto the scene last year as a highly touted true freshman and followed that up with a stellar sophomore season this year.

Page was named First Team All-Big Ten this week after averaging 19.4 points per game, good for No. 25 nationally and No. 5 in the Big Ten. That's more than four points higher than her 15.3 ppg last year when she was named Second Team All-Big Ten by the coaches. 

Improving her aggressiveness in the past year was key for Page to avoid the sophomore slump. Her confidence in herself and her teammates has also gone up, and it's shown on the floor.

"I think the biggest improvement has been my aggressiveness and having a lot more confidence in myself and my teammates to help me out and get me open," Page said. "A big thing that people have always told me is 'individual accolades come from team success' and I probably wouldn't have made first-team had we not had so much team success."

 Head coach Coquese Washington agrees, saying that Page is more willing to lead her team on the floor rather than just wait for the plays to come to her.

"It's her taking advantage of her matchup and she's become a lot more aggressive this year and a lot more confident," Washington said. "I think she has a lot of trust from her teammates and the trust that her teammates have in her has allowed her to be a lot more aggressive and assertive and willing to take over the game and play big."

Even as a young player, Page is very knowledgeable of the game and is always trying to get better. Her "bring it everyday" attitude has put her on a mission to make every play her best yet and has helped her to "play big in the biggest moments," according to Washington. 

"Teniya, she's in pursuit of the perfect basketball play every single time down the floor," Washington said. "She's got a high basketball IQ and one of the thing's we've encouraged her to do is broaden her view of what the perfect basketball play is because sometimes that means her doing some things that you can't draw up on a play board." 

Page is in elite company as a Lady Lion first team all-conference honoree. She's the first to receive the honor since Maggie Lucas got it in 2013-14 and is just the sixth Penn State sophomore to get the award. Page joins Lucas, Alex Bentley, Kelly Mazzante, Tina Nicholson, Angie Potthoff, and Tanisha Wright as other sophomores to be named to the first team.

Having coached both Lucas and Bentley, Washington sees a lot of similarities between Page and the two Lady Lion greats. 

"The one thing she has in common with some of those other players is her competitive fire," Washington said. "She loves and wants to win. Maggie Lucas wanted to win every drill in every practice, Alex Bentley wanted to win and that competitive fire is the thing that fuels her and I think that's another intangible that really makes her special." 

Despite the comparison to Bentley and Lucas, Page remains humble about the honor - she was asleep when it was announced and didn't find out until someone texted her. But for her, it's not about the individual accomplishments, and it never has been. 

"It wasn't a dream or goal or anything, it was kind of something that just happened," Page said. "I just go play and see what happens [but] to make it as a sophomore is a good thing. [My dream is] to win. 20-wins [in a season], win a Big Ten championship, play in the [NCAA] tournament, a Sweet 16 appearance, possibly an Elite Eight. So just win." 

Page will look to make at least one of those dreams a reality this week when the No. 7 seed Lady Lions take the floor for the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis. After securing a first round bye, they will face No. 10 seed Minnesota on Thursday with tip set for 6:30 p.m.

Black History Month Features: Coquese Washington

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By Simone Lee, student special feature writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Lady Lion head coach Coquese Washington. A name recognized by so many, both at Penn State and throughout the entire nation. In her 10th season at the helm of the program, Washington is in a category of her own. 

Arriving at Penn State, Washington became Penn State's first African American female head coach in Happy Valley. Her selfless passion for the betterment of her student-athletes as well as the community, all demonstrate her commitment in shaping Nittany Lion athletics history. 

Throughout her tenure, Washington's long list of accomplishments only continues to grow. A member of the Greater Flint Hall of Fame, a three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year honoree and a two-time Black Coaches Association (BCA) Female Coach of the Year recipient, these honors are just a sampling of her career highlights. 

Since arriving on campus, Washington has brought the Lady Lions back into the national spotlight, igniting energy on the court to change the program for the better. 

Washington however, cares not just about her team's performance on the court though, placing just as much emphasis on how her teams spend time off the court too. 

"We try to expose our student-athletes to all the various aspects of what the human condition means and it has to be about us being external," Washington said. "Getting out of our comfort zone, getting outside of our own world that can be quite insular at times, and being exposed to a variety of things - when you do that I think that empathy, sympathy and connection to others just grows."

Washington's emphasis on linking the Lady Lions basketball program with community initiatives has been an ongoing piece of the foundation of the program since she first arrived at Penn State.

Establishing one of her first community outreach projects, Washington partnered with the Centre County Women's Resource Center. Along with executive director Anne Ard, the two joined together to fundraise, spread awareness and provide resources to those impacted by domestic violence. As a result, Coquese's Drive, an annual golf tournament was formed, totaling more than $170,000 in its nine years of existence, all to benefit the resource center. 

"When I think about diversity at Penn State and Penn State athletics in particular, I really think that diversity, inclusion, connection, community is really a part of the fabric of what Penn State is all about."
- Coquese Washington

Just one of the many roles Washington and the Lady Lions play in the community, Washington's impact also stretchers further, as she continues to foster diversity among teams, coaches and administrative staff at Penn State.

"When I think about diversity at Penn State and Penn State athletics in particular, I really think that diversity, inclusion, connection, community is really a part of the fabric of what Penn State is all about," Washington said. "It's one of the things that drew me here." 

Looking back, one of most diverse experiences she has had at Penn State goes back to simply being welcomed as the fifth head coach in Penn State women's history. For Washington, she knew that coming to an institution like Penn State, she was going to be different in a variety of ways, from what the Nittany Lion community might be used to. 

As Washington recounts, following in the footsteps of African American women who have already become head coaches was certainly inspiring, but the warm embrace she felt from the community really stood out.

"It doesn't matter what your color is, it doesn't matter what your religion is, it doesn't matter what your sexual orientation is, if you're about making Penn State a welcoming place and you can add to the excellence that is Penn State, then you're going to be embraced," Washington said. "For me, that was such an empowering notion to grasp and to understand. At this place, not a lot of people look like me. I'm the first woman around here with dreadlocks, but it doesn't matter because I am Penn State, we are Penn State." 

Washington's passion for blending coaching leadership with community impact and experience goes back much further than when she arrived at Penn State.

Rather, Washington's humility and commitment to community service stems from her parents, who were both factory workers in Flint, Michigan for General Motors and both members of the union. Washington's father was a union representative and her mother was an active member. From early experiences, she grew up with the knowledge of what it means to have a voice, how to use it and how to be a leader in an impactful way. 
Alongside her role as Lady Lion basketball head coach, she serves as president of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). In just one piece of a vast set of responsibilities, she uses her knowledge of what it takes to be an impactful leader to help coaches from across the country at all different levels face problems they may have with diversity.

"We have LGBT issues, and transgender issues are becoming more and more common place, and how do you navigate transgender issues on the playing field," Washington said. "There are a number of diversity issues that we have to deal with and just this year we put in place our diversity and inclusion working group within the WBCA to deal with these issues and to provide suggestions and information to our executive committee so we can handle these issues in the appropriate way." 

As president of the WBCA, the experience has been enjoyable for Washington, especially accompanied by her former head coach Muffet McGraw. In her 30th season at the helm of the Notre Dame women's basketball program, McGraw serves on the executive board, and Washington, working with her long-time mentor and friend is amazing. 

"She has such a wide perspective," Washington said. "She has been coaching and has seen a lot of things over the years of her coaching career so to have her perspective is invaluable to me in my role as president. To have her ear and for her to have my ear to say, 'Coquese maybe we should look at things this way,' I'm really privileged to be able to have this experience with her." 

As Washington continues to lead the Lady Lions both on and off the court, she continues to represent Penn State as a role model and pioneer for African American women. Among accomplishments and tremendous impact, her message to those is a mixture of both connection and community. 

Her belief, as Aristotle also thought, is that the sum is greater than the whole of its parts, which has resonated with her for many years. It is now that Washington is instilling this same mindset in the lives of young African American women. 

"If I had any message to women of color, to women to students, to anybody at Penn State it is, find a way to be a blessing to somebody," Washington said.  "If we can do that, then we can make Penn State stronger and stronger everyday."


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