Penn Sports Plus: Penn Chess Club

-by Christine Chen

Last month, the Penn Chess Club secured its third straight Ivy League Championship. In an email interview, Penn Chess Club President and Captain Zack Weiner explained some inner workings of the game and the tournaments.

 How did you get into chess? Did you ever take lessons?

Weiner: I got into chess like most kids, playing against my dad. Once I realized I was pretty good, I wanted to get better, so I started taking lessons in elementary school and my parents hired a coach for me in middle school. By the time I got to high school it was basically all self-motivated studying that got me to where I am.

What do you guys do in a typical meeting? Is it more going over strategies or playing chess itself? How frequently do you guys meet?

Weiner:  We meet every Sunday in Houston Hall at 2pm. Anyone is welcome to come. Most players come just to shake off the rust and play some games for fun. A lot of times we end up getting real into it and analyzing our games afterwards though.

How do competitions usually work? Is there a ranking system? 

Weiner: The way that team tournaments like The Ivy League Chess Championship work, is that you compete in teams of 4 and you are paired up by rating (In chess, the higher the rating the better. For example, I am about 2150, the best player in the world is over 2800.) So our highest rated player plays against their highest rated, our second highest against their second highest, etc. If out of the four games you have a score of 2.5 or better (a win counts as 1, a draw as .5), you win the match. The team with the best match results after 4 rounds wins the tournament.

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Turn Back the Clock: Feb. 7, 2009

Women's hoops turns its season around against Cornell

Feb. 7, 2009

Before this past weekend, the Penn women’s basketball team had lost to Cornell in three straight meetings.

Yet Penn’s 65-56 win on Saturday couldn’t have been as sweet as the Red and Blue’s victory over the Big Red four years ago today.
Struggling to shake off an eight–game losing streak, Penn conquered Cornell in Ithaca on Feb. 7, 2009, 79-70, to notch its first Ivy win of the season.

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Turn Back the Clock: Jan. 31, 2009

The Quakers' 23-game winning streak at Dartmouth snapped   January 31, 2009

When’s the last time you can remember Penn men's hoops having a winning streak of over 20 games?

From the 1997 season until January 31, 2009, Penn had a 23-game winning streak over Dartmouth. But on that night, the Quakers lost 63-60 to the Big Green in a huge upset.

The night before, the Red and Blue beat Harvard 66-60 for their first Ivy game of the 2008-2009 season, holding off the League’s top scorer at the time, Crimson junior guard Jeremy Lin.

But on that night, Penn’s defense had no answer for Dartmouth’s Alex Barnett, who went on to be Ivy League Player of the Year.

With 24 points, the senior forward blew Penn out of the water.

The night started out looking hopeful. The Quakers were up 56-48 with 5:24 left after sophomore guard Tyler Bernardini sank two free throws, extending a nine-point run for Penn.

Yet the lead slipped all too quickly through the Red and Blue’s fingers as Dartmouth came back to score 15 of the last 19 points in the game.

After a Dartmouth timeout, Barnett drove the game in Big Green’s favor. The scoreboard finally broke even when Big Green senior forward Dan Biber was fouled on a layup and sank a free throw, tying the game at 60-60.

Biber complemented Barnett well for Dartmouth, taking 17 points on the game. His final three points came from outside the paint, capping the game at 63-60 for Dartmouth and reminding the Quakers that they were only just starting Ivy play.

-by Danielle Chuang

Red and Blue Scrimmage: Takeaways

The Quakers basketball team took the court for the first time this season Saturday morning with an opponent they know very well — themselves. The scrimmage featured 11 of the 16 players on the roster with Steve Rennard, Jamal Lewis, Simeon Esprit, Keelan Cairns and Larry Lougherty sitting out.

Three of the four freshman participated in today's game. Darien Nelson-Henry saw time at center and played well defensively and added six points and a handful of rebounds as well. Tony Hicks started for the white team alongside Nelson-Henry and had six points with a handful of assists and a couple of rebounds.

However, as coach Jerome Allen later admitted, the most impressive performance belonged to Julian Harrell. Although Harrell showed up on the stat sheet fewer times than his classmates, his hustle and defensive play earned his coach's respect. The focus for this team will be defense, and with a number of good shooters and good guards, those who can defend will see the most time on the court.

— Nick Greiner

Looking ahead: A potential Ivy title game

via PennAthletics.com

Not that the Penn-Princeton rivalry has been lacking in intensity, but this year’s women’s soccer tilt between the two schools appears like it will carry extra weight.

Penn and Princeton currently sit atop the Ivy standings at 3-0. If both teams maintain their level of play and win out, when they meet in the season finale on Nov. 3 at Princeton, it will effectively become an Ivy League championship game. Considering that last season’s 14-2-1 Penn team missed out on an at-large bid, winning the conference could be their only ticket to the NCAA tournament.

The Quakers have a relatively easy path to the finale with games remaining against Brown and Yale — both which are winless in Ivy play. The only potential roadblock is this weekend’s game at Dartmouth (see preview). But with wins at Ithaca and as far away as Sacramento, the Quakers have proved thus far that they can travel well.

A potential Penn-Princeton game provides an extremely intriguing matchup on paper. Princeton has the strongest offense in the conference, led by forward Jen Hoy’s 14 goals. Penn, meanwhile, boasts the league’s stoutest defense, conceding only 0.81 goals per game. One huge advantage in the Tigers favor will be home field. The Quakers have not won there since 2003.

With all the potential storylines surrounding a Penn-Princeton finale, we can only hope the two teams keep up their outstanding play.

— Tim Ghosh

Niagara names Penn hoops alum new AD

Niagara has hired 1978 Penn alumnus Tom Crowley to fill their open Athletic Director position.

Crowley played basketball for the Quakers from 1975-78 and was the captain of the 1978 Ivy League championship team. That year, he averaged 8.2 points per game while also leading the team in field goal percentage. The 1978 Quakers went 2-2 in Big 5 play and also won an NCAA Tournament game to make the Sweet 16 before falling to Duke.

The following year, Crowley started his rise up the ranks of college basketball coaches as an assistant coach for the Quakers’ 1979 run to the Final Four. From there, he went on to become an assistant coach at Xavier, Rutgers and Stanford before becoming a head coach at Division II St. Michael’s college.

Since the early 2000s, he has worked on the administrative side of athletics, working at Vermont, Temple and, most recently, Butler.

— Steven Tydings

Game 2: Villanova — The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

For the second consecutive week, the Quakers were unable to pick up a win as they fell to Villanova, 24-8, in their final non-conference tune-up before Ivy League play begins next Saturday at Dartmouth.

THE GOOD: The offensive spark of Spencer Kulcsar

Despite primarily playing special teams in his career before Saturday's game, Spencer Kulcsar came up with a large contribution to the rushing attack in the second half. The Quakers were without senior running back Brandon Colavita, who had a rib injury, but Kulcsar, a sophomore, picked up the slack in the second half with long runs of 27 and 28 yards that brought Penn into Villanova territory. While Colavita is expected back for Ivy play next week, Kulcsar displayed the depth of the Penn rushing attack and could be in line for more carries next week.

THE BAD: The struggles of the secondary

Facing a Villanova team known for its ground game, the Quakers focused on stopping the run. While the Red and Blue stopped the Wildcats' rushing attack early, they allowed the Villanova aerial assault to control the first three quarters of action until the game got out of hand. Three of Villanova’s top-five receivers had injuries, yet quarterback John Robertson threw for over 200 yards while scoring two touchdowns in the Villanova victory.

THE UGLY: Dexter Davis’s fourth quarter shoving match

Villanova’s offense hit Penn with a barrage of long drives throughout the game and Penn seemed ill-suited to hit back. The only strike from the Quakers came from defensive back Dexter Davis’ fight with a Villanova player late in the game. Davis was shoving the offensive player and landed a blow to the helmet before being assessed a 15-yard personal foul. The penalty provided the Wildcats 15 yards and a first down towards their third and final touchdown drive.

-Steven Tydings

Drexel may host CAA basketball tourney at the Palestra

Looks like the Palestra could host a postseason basketball tourney after all, but Quakers fans won't be the ones filling the stands.

Instead, Drexel is making a bid to host the Colonial Athletic Association's conference tournament in 2013, CSNPhilly reports. Virginia Commonwealth has hosted the tournament at the Richmond Coliseum since 1990, but the Rams are leaving the CAA and joining the Atlantic 10 starting this fall. The Palestra is one of the gyms under consideration to host the tourney.

A conference tourney hasn't been held at the Palestra since 1995, when the Atlantic 10 finished a seven-year run at the gym. The Dragons would hope to take advantage of the location change, just as the Virginia teams in the CAA took advantage of the tournament's locality — a non-Virginia school hasn't won the CAA title since UNC-Wilmington won in 2006.

Two other locations under consideration are Atlantic City and Baltimore, and league officials say a final decision will be made shortly.

Penn Relays’ USA and World teams announced

In the women's 4x100-meter relay Team USA sprint team will feature Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter, both with Olympic aspirations this year. They will be joined by Francena McCorory, Jessica Beard, and Bianca Knight. All five represented the United States at the World Championsips in Daegu, South Korea last year on ateam that took home gold in the 4x100m and 4x400-meter relays.

Phoebe Wright and Erica Moore will also compete for Team USA in the sprint medley. Wright has won multiple Penn Relays as a collegiate athlete, while Moore won her first international medal this year.

Team USA will face still challenges from Jamaica and Great Britain. Jamaica’s team will feature Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (the defending Olympian champion in the 100), Kerron Stewart, and Sherone Simpson in the 4x100 (a fourth runner is yet to be determined). All three medaled in Beijing. Shericka Williams and Novlene Williams-Mills will be running in the 4x400m, and Kenia Sinclair will be in the 800 meters.

Team Britain features Shana Cox, Nicole Sanders, Christine Ohuruogu, and Perri Shrakes-Drayton. That’s the same quartet that outran its American competitors in the 4x400m at the World Indoor Championships, taking gold by three thousandths of a second.

On the men’s side, Team USA’s sprinters will feature, in addition to Merrit, Walter Dix, Angelo Taylor, Justin Gatlin, and Bershawn Jackson. The medley team, anchored by Lagat, will also sport Jeshua Anderson, Khadevis Robinson, Nick Symmonds, Russel Brown, as well as Manzano.

Team USA will face plenty of international competition. The Jamaican, as the defending world and Olympic champions, are the likely favorites in the 4x100. The team’s top three runners are Nesta Carter, Jermaine Gonzales, and Allodin Fothergill.

Another notable athlete is Kirani Jones, who hails from Grenada, and is currently the 400m world champion.

- Steven Jaffe

W. Hoops recruit commits to dream school

Penn women’s basketball has added a third player to its recruiting class. According to the New York Post, Christ the King (N.Y.) point guard Rayne Connell committed to Penn this week.

Connell, who chose the Quakers over Southern Methodist University, took the SATs twice and the ACTs five times in order to achieve the necessary score for admission to Penn, the Post wrote.

She has started at point guard all three years she has been on the varsity squad. In Connell’s sophomore season, the Royals took home the Class AA state title.

The scouting report on Connell is that she is a very strong defender. Her coach Bob Mackey told the Post that she guards the opponent’s best player. Offensively, she has no trouble attacking the basket.

The Royals (5-8) struggled to open the season with Connell missing time after having a benign cyst removed from her back, but the team has won five of its last seven games.

Christ the King has produced multiple WNBA All-Stars, including Sue Bird, Tina Charles and Chamique Holdsclaw.

-Tim Ghosh