Penn will play its final Big 5 opponent in its last non-conference game of the season against Temple on Wednesday. Penn (7-7, 0-1 Ivy) will be looking for its first win against Temple (7-10) since 2003. For this edition of Behind Enemy Lines, I spoke with Owls' head coach Tonya Cardoza about notching her 100th win in less than five years and the youth of her 2012-2013 squad.
This season, you reached a landmark, you got your 100th win. What does that mean to you?
Cardoza: It means a lot. Obviously every game that you go into you want to win and the fact that I’ve been able to do it in four and a half years, it’s just a credit to the kids that I’ve coached and the staff that I’ve had surrounding me. It feels good to get that out of the way. The last month or so, knowing that we were so close, it was finally good to get that one win. It means a lot because it’s a milestone a lot of people are not able to reach and the fact that I’ve been able to do it, like I said, in four and a half years I’m happy with that.
You’ve obviously had a very successful couple of seasons at Temple and I know this season is a little different. You have a very young team. It’s the second most inexperienced in Division I. How has that affected your level of play and goals for the season?
Cardoza: Obviously our goals have to change and as we came into the season our expectation was to still do the same things we’ve done in the past and we haven’t been able to do that. We haven’t reached the same level of success up to this point but everyday, we are young, and everyday we have to get better because we’re also building for the future. We haven’t had a lot of wins but everyday in practice we’re trying to get better with the hopes that it carries over down the stretch and that we’re able to make a run for it.
But it’s been something different, something that obviously none of us have been used to because we haven’t lost many games here so we’re not going to be accustomed to losing as well. We know that we are young, and we do have a lot of inexperience but sometimes it’s not about inexperience it’s just about what effort you give and I think there’s sometimes that we’ve lost games this year, not because we were young, just because we didn’t do little things.
And has it been particularly tough this season because the beginning of your schedule was against such difficult opponents?
Cardoza: I mean we played difficult opponents but we also had opportunities to win some of those games. I think it’s the little things we did not so much we were playing tough opponents. I felt that we kept ourselves in games but whether its turnovers or missing box-outs or little things like that. Things that we can control, we didn’t control them. So it wasn’t so much that the opponent was tough I felt like it was things that we did.
And moving towards your game against Penn this week, you haven’t lost to Penn since you’ve been coaching Temple. What are you expecting for the matchup on Wednesday?
Cardoza: I’m expecting it to be a good match-up. I mean they have some really good players, especially in [Alyssa] Baron. Someone that can really score and she’s hurt us a few times. Two years ago she really gave us a fit. So I know she’s going to come out and want to play well against us. We have to defend them. They’re really smart. They know how to play. They play well together and we have to be on our toes because we’re going to have to defend them. We’re going to have to be smart and that’s something we haven’t been doing well and in order for us to win the game we’re going to have to defend them.
In the four and a half years you’ve been coaching Temple, how have you seen the Quakers change over this time?
Cardoza: To be honest, every year that we’ve played them, even my very first year, in every game that we played against them has been a battle. Except last year. I think last year was probably a game that probably was more than 10 points, but every other game since I’ve been here has been really close. You can never look at their record and expect that you’re going to take them lightly. They’re going to fight you right from the start and every game that we play them has been a battle. I remember one year, we were down a few players and we had a walk-on come on and she had to score a career high in order for us to win. So I’m definitely expecting a battle on Wednesday.