It’s déjà vu all over again on women’s side as Ivy Madness kicks off in New York City

The Ivy League Tournament kicks off on Friday night at Levien Gym with an exciting slate of semifinal games in the women’s competition.

The bracket this year has a familiar look as the same four teams from last year’s tournament will face off against each other in this year’s edition of Ivy Madness.  

The No. 1 Princeton Tigers, co-champions during the regular season, will take on the No. 4 Penn Quakers, while the No. 2 and co-champion Columbia Lions will seek to avenge a disappointing loss in last year’s semifinal against the No. 3 Harvard Crimson.  

Let’s take a closer look at each of these semifinal matchups:

Women’s semifinal:  No. 1 Princeton v. No. 4 Penn, Fri., 4:30 p.m.

Princeton (23-4, 13-1 Ivy) and Penn (15-12, 7-7) will face each other in the first semifinal for the second time in less than a week, the third time this season and the sixth time in the last two seasons.  

The Tigers have dominated this series over the past five years and currently own an 11-game winning streak against Penn, which ties the longest winning streak in the history of this rivalry. In their two previous matchups this season, the Tigers prevailed by double digits, defeating the Quakers 67-54 at the Palestra and 72-55 last weekend at Jadwin Gym. 

Can Penn finally solve the Princeton puzzle and advance to their first Ivy League Tournament championship game since 2019?  Led by first team All-Ivy forward Jordan Obi (14.7 ppg) and the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Year, Mataya Gayle (14.1 ppg), the Quakers certainly have the talent to compete with the Tigers. 

But Princeton has more than enough firepower of its own to match up favorably with Penn.  Senior co-captain Kaitlyn Chen (15.6 ppg, five apg), a unanimous first team All-Ivy pick this season and last year’s Ivy League Player of the Year, typically plays her best during Ivy Madness.  As a sophomore, Chen showcased her talent in the 2022 Ivy League Tournament by scoring 48 points in two games and securing her first tournament MVP award.  Chen won a second MVP award at last season’s Ivy League Tournament and has an opportunity this weekend to garner MVP honors again for an unprecedented third consecutive year. 

Chen has been particularly potent against Penn, averaging 22.5 points per game in her last four outings against the Quakers.  Penn coach Mike McLaughlin will need to come up with a way to contain Chen on Saturday if the Quakers are to have any hope of breaking Princeton’s spell over the Red and Blue.

Even if Penn can find a way to contain Chen, Princeton coach Carla Berube has a plethora of other scoring options at her disposal.  Sophomore sensation Madison St. Rose (14.2 ppg), a second-team All-Ivy guard from Old Bridge, N.J., torched Penn last Saturday for 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting, while senior co-captain Chet Nweke, who tallied 11 against the Quakers a week ago, has been averaging 11.3 points per game since cracking Berube’s starting lineup in mid-January.  

Princeton also features one of the most suffocating defenses in the nation, led by senior co-captain Ellie Mitchell, who earlier this week won her third consecutive honor as the Ivy League’s Defensive Player of the Year.  

In Princeton’s two previous matchups with Penn this season, the Tigers held the Quakers to 55 and 54 points, respectively, the two lowest point outputs by Penn in conference play this season.

Overall, Princeton will enter this matchup as a heavy favorite.  Of course, anything can happen in Ivy Madness, but for Penn to prevail, the Quakers will need to play their best game of the season and hope to catch the Tigers looking ahead to Saturday’s championship game.

Women’s semifinal: No. 2 Columbia v. No. 3 Harvard, Fri., 7:30 p.m.

The Columbia Lions (22-5, 13-1) will have revenge on their minds when they face off against the Harvard Crimson (16-11, 9-5) in the second semifinal on Friday night.  

A year ago in the Ivy League Tournament semifinals, these two teams fought each other to a draw until the Crimson prevailed in overtime, 72-65.  The loss was devastating to Columbia and likely prevented the Lions from earning their first ever berth to the NCAA Tournament.  Coach Megan Griffith and her Columbia squad will be determined not to allow history to repeat and this time they have a home court advantage to support their cause.

The Lions also have the Ivy League’s best player this season, Abbey Hsu, a two-time first team All-Ivy League guard who earlier this week won recognition as the Ivy League Player of the Year.  Hsu leads the league in scoring, averaging 20.6 points per game and is fourth in the league in rebounding with 7.1 boards per game.  

A year ago in the semifinal against Harvard, Hsu suffered one of the worst games of her career, managing only four points on 2-for-14 shooting.  Don’t bet on that happening again.  The senior from Parkland, Fla. has been on a mission this year, scoring in double-digits in every one of Columbia’s 27 games this season and tallying more than 20 points in 16 contests.  

Griffith has ample other weapons in her arsenal to support Hsu.  Cecelia Collins (13.9 ppg), a junior transfer from Bucknell, has fit in nicely with Griffith’s scheme, earning Second-Team All-Ivy honors.  

And then there’s the Henderson sisters from Australia – Kitty and Fliss – who provide scoring punch, rebounding, and grit to the Lions’ lineup.  Kitty (11.9 ppg, 4.1 apg, 6.1 rpg) is a glue-type player who makes everyone around her better.  Her younger sister, Fliss, a freshman, compliments Kitty’s game and probably has opposing teams wondering if they’re seeing double vision. 

Harvard is led by senior guard Harmoni Turner, a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection who finished second in scoring in the league this year averaging 19.6 points per game. Lola Mullaney, a 5-foot-11 senior sharpshooter, contributed 13.6 points per game to the Crimson’s cause this season and is one of the best three-point shooters (31.7%) in the Ivy League.

After their disappointing loss to Harvard in last year’s semifinal round, Columbia recovered to make a run all the way to the championship game of the WNIT, including an avenging win over Harvard in the WNIT semifinals.  This season, Columbia beat Harvard in both regular season matchups, winning at home in early February, 82-70, and again at Cambridge two weeks later, 71-63.

The two teams have been heading in a somewhat different direction of late. Harvard has dropped three of its last five games, while Columbia is riding a 10-game winning streak, equaling the longest streak in program history.  

The Lions also enjoyed a 10-game winning streak earlier this season before losing to Princeton at Jadwin Gym in its only Ivy loss of the season.  I like Columbia’s chances to break its all-time winning streak by beating Harvard on Friday night.  The Lions will be playing before a raucous home crowd and should be energized to exorcize the demons of last year’s semifinal loss to the Crimson.

Should that happen, Ivy League hoops fans may get the championship game they’ve been dreaming of on Saturday night:  No. 2 Columbia against No. 1 Princeton with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line.  

2 thoughts on “It’s déjà vu all over again on women’s side as Ivy Madness kicks off in New York City”

  1. Lola Mullaney is an excellent and versatile player, but a 31.7% point shooter does nto make her one of the best 3 point shooters in the Ivy League

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