Ivy League Tournament: Women’s press conference highlights

If it’s not on the MTA map, it should be (Photo: Rob Browne)

NEW YORK – The opening day of the Ivy League Tournament brought the four women’s teams to Levien Gymnasium on the campus of Columbia University.

Below are highlights of the press conferences and links to the videos. (Check out the game previews from Steve Silverman)

  • Princeton was represented by coach Carla Berube, senior guard Kaitlyn Chen (unanimous First Team All-Ivy), senior forward Ellie Mitchell (Second Team All-Ivy, Defensive Player of the Year) and senior forward Chet Nweke.  Since this team has won six straight regular season titles and is looking for its fifth straight Ivy Tournament championship, it’s a confident and poised group. The lineups change year to year, but the culture remains consistent.

    The intensity of the crowd and the close proximity to the players may be a challenge, but this group, which includes Second Team All-Ivy (and 2023 Rookie of the Year) sophomore guard Madison St. Rose, has held its own in Indiana and Utah the last two seasons, as well as finding success at Levien. The Tigers don’t arrive with the longest winning streak for the first time since 2017, but they’re still the team to beat.

    “They just know when it comes to be game time, you need to be locked in, you need to be ready, and you need to be prepared. Any my staff and I try to prepare them as best we can to be ready for X, Y and Z. I also think in preparation, they communicate well with each other because you don’t know what’s going to happen in every game. There’s not a blueprint. They rely on each other, so no matter what the situation is they can get through it.” – Carla Berube 

    The Tigers gear up for Ivy Tournament title No. 5 (Photo: Rob Browne)

  • Penn was represented by head coach Mike McLaughlin, senior forward Jordan Obi (First Team All-Ivy), junior forward Stina Almqvist (Second Team All-Ivy) and first-year guard Mataya Gayle (Rookie of the Year). The Quakers had a partial rebuild after losing several key players to graduation, including three-time first team All-Ivy Kayla Padilla (Padilla, Columbia’s Kaitlyn Davis and Harvard’s McKenzie Forbes all start for USC, which is ranked in the Top 10 and won the 2024 PAC-12 Tournament). After starting the league schedule at 3-5, the Red & Blue won four of their last six, including an upset win over Harvard, to make it to the Ivy League Tournament. The players credited the development of a more consistent defense and team chemistry with the younger players to the late-season success.

    “They (Princeton) really hurt us in transition (in both games). We didn’t do particularly great against them in transition. If we can narrow that gap a little bit, maybe reduce the possessions, we get a better chance. We played some really good basketball against them at times, but not for 40 minutes to beat a quality time like this. We’re going to have to put a full 40 minutes, a special effort. Are we capable of it? Yes. Is it going to be a task that’s going to be difficult? There’s no doubt about it.” – Mike McLaughlin

    Penn looks to get back to the finals for the first time since 2019 (Photo: Rob Browne)

  • Columbia was represented by head coach Megan Griffith (Coach of the Year), senior guard Abbey Hsu (Player of the Year, unanimous First Team All-Ivy), junior forward Kitty Henderson (Second Team All-Ivy) and sophomore guard/forward Perri Page. Junior guard and Scranton native Cecelia Collins (Second Team All-Ivy) joined from the press gallery as a faux reporter from the Scranton Times-Tribune. The Lions, which won its first-ever Ivy regular season title last year, had to reload after losing seven seniors from last year’s historic team and ended up with a record number of league wins on its path to a second straight championship. This group has been developing throughout the season and enters the weekend with a confidence and relaxed nature that was missing last March. That team, which was in unchartered territory, may have been playing not to lose by the end of the Ivy schedule, but this year’s group seems to be playing to win.

    “It’s a different team, a completely different team. We had something really, really special last year, but it was the first time we ever did that (win a regular season championship).  For all those players, it was the first time they had won something together. To have experience coming back from that, especially with these three sitting up here with me, and the leadership of our seniors, Nicole Stephens and Paige Lauder, they’ve been here before and they’re acting like it. I think that’s really important when you’re trying to take the next step in your program.” – Megan Griffith

    The Lions hope home floor advantage leads to a first-ever Ivy League Tournament title. (Photo: Rob Browne)

  • Harvard was represented by head coach Carrie Moore, senior guard Lola Mullaney (Honorable Mention All-Ivy) and junior guard Harmoni Turner (First-Team All-Ivy). More than any team in the league, the Crimson has been hit by the injury bug. Turner injured her knee against Michigan and missed the month of December, while forward Elena Rodriguez went off with an injury against Columbia on February 2 and returned for the last three weeks of the season. While Turner returned to her normal production, Rodriguez is still in a reserve role. While the coach wouldn’t provide a specific percentage with respect to her health, she said the junior from Spain is “available” and “will be playing.” Fortunately, the Crimson have sophomore forward Katie Krupa, who earned Honorable Mention recognition, holding down the inside, and Mullaney, who has the ability to light it up from beyond the arc. Despite a short roster of nine active players, Harvard will use its experience from last year’s run to the Ivy tournament final and its Great Eight WNIT appearance (where it was defeated by Columbia) to make it to Saturday night.

    “Rebounding. The game (against Columbia) will come down to that. If you give them two possessions compared to one every time down the floor. We talk about the math at that point. It’s just too many possessions compared to what we will get. They’re a great rebounding team and we’ve got to be disciplined in our effort to box out and push bodies back and then get everybody we can to the glass and limit them to one possession at a time. – Carrie Moore

    Harvard aims for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007 (Photo: Rob Browne)