Behind Enemy Lines: Cornell women’s lacrosse’s Jenny Graap

usl_jennygraap_stroh

Courtesy of laxmagazine.com

This Sunday, the Quakers will square off with Cornell in a battle of the two top Ivy League teams. We took a moment to catch up with Cornell’s head coach Jenny Graap, a Pa. native now coaching at her alma mater.

Daily Pennsylvanian: Your team is off to a great 6-0 start, including an impressive win over Penn State and two wins in the Ivy League. What has your team done to be so successful early on?

Jenny Graap: We have worked hard in the off-season to be prepared. Our strength and conditioning coach Tom Howley instills discipline and attention to detail in our Cornell athletes. WLax is fortunate to train under coach Howley, and we embody his lessons in all that we do. Our assistant coach Jen Baker has also been a tremendous asset in preparing our players, particularly for the mental aspects of competition. We have strong leadership on the squad and our players are unified both on and off the field. Our 2013 season has started off well, and Cornell has been fortunate to learn from our mistakes in games while still winning.  Sometimes it takes a tough loss to teach important lessons, but we are staying focused on growing and improving as individuals and as a collective team regardless of our record.

DP: Lindsay Toppe already has 25 goals in just six games after having 11 all of last season. Only a sophomore, how important has she been to your team and how much better can she get?

JG: Toppe is a talented athlete with an exceptional lacrosse IQ. She is composed no matter what the defense throws at her, and her coaches have been very impressed with her development.  She learned a ton during her freshman campaign and she has improved on all levels. Toppe's quickness and defensive ability allows her to be one of Cornell's most impactful players in our ride.

DP: Your team dropped two tough Ivy League games to Penn and Dartmouth last year, both by a goal. What does your team need to do to get over the hump and win those close games?

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Behind Enemy Lines: Princeton men’s basketball coach Mitch Henderson

Mitch Henderson

-via cbssports.com

I talked with Princeton men's basketball coach Mitch Henderson Monday afternoon about the Tigers' perspective heading into tonight's tilt with Princeton.

Daily Pennsylvanian: How deflating was the loss to Brown that knocked your team out of Ivy title contention?

Mitch Henderson: It’s hugely disappointing for us. We have a very simple goal around here, and that’s to play championship basketball. I think we have a group of seniors who have done a lot for our program and won a title, so it was very disappointing.

DP: Since your team was favored by many to win the conference coming into this season and even during much of the year, how would you characterize this season for your program?

MH: One weekend unfortunately is defining a large part of what we were doing, but I thought that given where we were and the personnel we were playing, I liked what we were doing. I’m proud of the team and where we are. Obviously it’s tough after a difficult loss [but] we never saw ourselves as anything other than trying to get better.

DP: Miles Cartwright scored just two points last time out against you guys on 1-for-7 shooting. How did you guys go about shutting him down in the last game?

MH: He’s a good player, I don’t know if you ever shut him down, but we did a nice job of filling the picture and helping where we needed to help. He’s a good player and I think I said after the first game that it’s going to be a very different game when we see them the next time around, and I believe that’s true.

DP: After looking more aggressive against Brown and Yale this weekend, how do you think Cartwright might try to attack your defense differently this time around?

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Behind Enemy Lines: Princeton women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart

-via ivyleaguesports.com

-via ivyleaguesports.com

Princeton clinched its fourth consecutive Ivy League title at Jadwin this past weekend. The Tigers have had a strong run during coach Banghart's tenure and will head to the NCAA Tournament once again, trying to pick up their first postseason victory in Banghart's time with the Tigers. I spoke with Banghart about where she saw her team heading into the tournament and the upcoming Penn-Princeton season finale.

Daily Pennsylvanian: Your team clinched the Ivy League bid over the last weekend. What can you say about your senior class now having won the last four Ivy League titles and now preparing for their fourth NCAA Tournament?

Courtney Banghart: It’s hard to put into words. We always say here that within greatness lies consistency and I give them all the credit in the world for how they’ve remained consistent over a four-year period. Especially with that Saturday night in the Ivy League as the great equalizer, you play through midterms and play through all of that, it is remarkable. It is remarkably rare and it is really hard to do, so all of the credit to the kids.

DP: A lot of brackets have you projected right around the 8-9 matchup in the first round of the NCAA Tournament similar to last season. What can you say about where you think your team ends up and about possible first-round matchups?

CB: What I would say about the bracketology is that I went to one of those mock committee meetings a couple of years ago to learn more about it and what I would say about the bracketology this time of year is what happens when a hurricane comes in or a blizzard comes in. It turns everyone into a weatherman and everyone has their idea of when work should be cancelled, when roads should be closed, but really there are only those who are educated to make those decisions or just those who are making the decisions.

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Behind Enemy Lines – Cornell’s Dayna Smith

Dayna SmithPenn (7-8, 0-1 Ivy) will head to Cornell (10-6, 2-0) Saturday night as the Ivy League season kicks into full gear.  Cornell coach Dayna Smith has been with the team for 10 seasons and is already the winningest coach in program history. Prior to taking over for the Big Red, Smith spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Penn.  I spoke with Coach Smith about Cornell’s season so far and what the matchup with Penn will mean to both teams.

What led you to Cornell after three seasons with Penn?

Smith: I was able to work at Penn for three seasons under Kelly Greenberg and she did a fantastic job with the program and we were able to win a championship.  I was there for Penn’s first women’s basketball Ivy League championship.  It was just a tremendous experience as my first job in the Ivy League being able to work with the type of student-athlete.  We had a well-balanced team with some players that are probably still on the record-books.  It was my second stint as an assistant after I spent three years at my alma mater at Rhode Island.  Because of our success I was fortunate enough to be able to get the Cornell job.

What have you thought about your season so far?

Smith: We have a veteran team with nine seniors and juniors. You can just tell the experience and the amount of leadership we have is the big difference for us from last season. I’ve been very happy with where our team has been.  We had one big letdown against Bucknell.  That was a game where everything went wrong and everybody played poorly. You hope to have only one of those a year and hopefully we got that out of our system.

As of late, we’ve been playing good basketball.  We played a very scrappy, physical Columbia team in back-to-back weekends and were able to come out of that type of environment with a double-overtime victory on Saturday.  We were able to get two Ivy League wins right off the start and be able to win on the road.  That’s always tough in this league.  We’re excited for these back-to-back night games.  We have two forwards that are our leading scorers and our point guard leads the league in assists.

How does everyone match up in the Ivy League this year?

Smith: The league looks very tough. I think everyone has improved. Obviously, until someone knocks off Princeton, they’ll be the cream of the crop. In preparing this week for them, they just look good. They have talent in every position and they’re skilled in every position. They really don’t have a weakness and that just makes it very difficult to scheme and prepare. I’ve been most impressed with their defense. That’s going to be a challenge for anyone. When you look at the league, Penn is having a very good year. You can see their maturity in their players.  You can see them developing that experience and that familiarity with one another.

Obviously, Alyssa Baron is a fantastic offensive player and I think she’s starting to have pieces around her. If you can bring in a player of her caliber and surround them with people that can score or penetrate and be able to kick to her and be able to score inside for her. That’s when you’ll have success and you can definitely see Penn is starting to develop that. Harvard has a terrific team and Dartmouth was able to knock them off.  I think what you see in the league is anyone can beat anyone on any given night. That sounds cliché but it is something we preach and something we believe in.

How does Penn matchup with Cornell?

Smith: I don’t subscribe to the statistics of former years.  I think in any home Ivy League game you give the home team a few point advantage but we need to play solid basketball for 40 minutes.  Penn is very physical and scrappy and they like to have a lot of movement and motion on offense.  They try to play up-tempo and we like to play up-tempo so we’re going to have to play solid defense.  We’re going to have to understand where their shooters are and play perimeter penetration defense.  We need to keep our composure because Penn does like to get in your face and play physical. That’s something we’ve gotten used to from a lot of Ivy teams but from Penn in particular.

For us, we’re going to have to have a good game against Princeton on Friday and bounce back on Saturday regardless of the outcome and be ready to play a whole different game plan.  I think that’s a challenge for every Ivy team on that Saturday game.  We’re glad we won’t be on a bus driving here Friday night but I think that might be a slight advantage being at home.  Penn will be fresh and hopefully we’ll be ready for that game as well.  I think you’re looking at Alyssa Baron leading the way and we have to contain her by playing team defense.  We’re not a very good one-on-one defensive team, we like to play team defense and that’s going to have to be in effect in order to slow her down.

Behind Enemy Lines: Columbia announcer Sam Tydings

wkcrPenn starts six straight weekends of Ivy League back-to-backs on Friday against Columbia. The Quakers (3-15, 0-1 Ivy) have won three consecutive games against the Lions (7-7, 1-1 Ivy) and are looking for their first Ivy win of the year.

In this edition of Behind Enemy Lines, I spoke with Columbia senior and men’s basketball radio announcer Sam Tydings (for those wondering, yes, he is my brother). He also writes a biweekly column on Lions sports for the Columbia Spectator. We spoke about Columbia’s recent split of their home and home with Cornell and what it is like to cover Columbia athletics for WKCR.

Columbia beat Villanova on Nov. 20 in Philadelphia. How would you say the Lions have lived up to the buzz that came after that upset?

Tydings: I think that they play a lot better on the road than at home, which is curious, especially for a team in the Ivy League. They’ve won games on the road like at Villanova and a couple of their other non-conference games, but they’ve had a lot of games where they have just failed to execute plays. They lost the Elon game on a three pointer at the buzzer, they lost to Bucknell after they had a big first half lead. Marist, too, was another close game that they lost at the end, and then Cornell on Saturday. It was a huge crowd, and they completely laid an egg in the first half.

What were the expectations for the Lions in Ivy play and how did the loss to Cornell affect them?

Tydings: I think that the expectations were that Harvard and Princeton are the top tier, and that Columbia is a definitive No. 3, and are better than the teams below them. But the loss to Cornell really hurt. They really needed to come out and sweep that opening series. The fact that they didn’t means that if they don’t go 3-1 or 4-0 over the next two weeks, with Princeton on Saturday and Harvard the week after that, then they just are not going to win the league and to be eliminated in the third week of Ivy play would be a huge disappointment. The expectations, at least amongst the coaches and the players, were that they could win the league this year, and they still can. But because they lost to Cornell, it is a real uphill battle.

Last season, Columbia lost a lot of close games in Ivy League play. How have they done in those situations this season, and how do you think they can improve upon them compared to last season?

Tydings: The Villanova game was closer until late in the second half, and they did a great job of putting it away with some defense, with something like 18 straight free throws, but they’ve lost a lot of close games, especially at home. With the Elon game, they had a two point lead and [senior guard] Brian Barbour was at the line for a one and one. Barbour has been close to 90 percent free throw shooting, but he missed, and the rebound was tipped out of bounds to Columbia. So [sophomore guard Steve] Frankoski had a one and one, he missed, and Elon hit a three. Even in the game against Cornell, they went 1-for-5 from the free throw line in the first half. They’ve just had these weird slip-ups at home that have cost them these close games. They’re not really turning the ball over. They’re not really blowing assignments on defense. They just need to execute.

What are your thoughts on Penn this season and the fact that Fran Dougherty is coming back against Columbia?

Tydings: I think the fact that he’s back is going to be a real big boost for them. I talked to [Columbia coach] Kyle Smith earlier and I basically asked him, “Penn’s been really bad this year. Are you worried that this is a trap game?” and he brought up the fact that they’ve played really well recently. They hung with Temple for a while. They didn’t play really well against Princeton, but some of these other non-conference games, they’ve been able to hang around or been able to win, and they aren’t on the big losing streak anymore, obviously. The fact that they’re at home, with the Palestra such a tough place to play for a road team, and Columbia has three or four freshman that will be playing significant minutes in their first time at the Palestra. Based off non-conference play, you would think this would be a blowout for Columbia but I think this is going to be a really close game. I would not be surprised if Penn won.

What is it like to cover a Penn-Princeton back to back weekend for WKCR?

Tydings: I haven’t done it before, so this is a first time thing for me. We are heading to Penn Friday afternoon, driving back that night, and going to Princeton the following day. I know the team is going to Penn and staying overnight somewhere in the Pennsylvania-New Jersey area and then heading to Princeton the next day. For us, it is just a lot of driving, but for the players I’m sure it’s a lot easier to stay overnight instead of going back and forth. I was told today that if [Columbia] wins on Friday night, they are going to go and get celebratory cheese steaks, so that will give them a little extra incentive to play well against Penn.

As an announcer also for Columbia football, what is it like covering a game like Harvard’s 69-0 victory over Columbia, where you go up to Harvard and it is a blowout early on?

Tydings: I always say that blowouts are the toughest games to call because it really tests your pregame preparation. You need to know some other things to talk about other than the actual game. I just remember with the game that it was over by halftime, it was something like 42-0, so [WKCR announcer] Nick Bloom and I were just throwing out things like which players on Columbia’s roster we thought should get more playing time, what the game meant for the team going forward. You need to find other storylines to talk about. I mean, it’s difficult and it’s frustrating when you drive four-and-a-half hours each way and you call a football game that’s over 20 minutes in, but everyone who has announced games has had games like that.

What has been your favorite moment covering Columbia athletics over the past four years?

Tydings: You are really making me dig deep for this one. I can give you a couple. My freshman year, I covered a double overtime women’s basketball game in the year where Columbia’s women’s team won the most games in school history. Their star player hurt her knee at the end of regulation, and came back in overtime and hit a big bucket, which was really exciting.

Baseball, my freshman year, the team had a walk-off hit against Penn to clinch home-field advantage for the Ivy League championship series, so I got to be on the call for that one. And for football, the “win or go winless” Saturday at the end of last year, where they beat Brown in double overtime to avoid going 0-10. It was the only overtime game I called as an announcer in football and it was a lot of fun. College overtime is kind of hokey, but it is really fun as an announcer.

Behind Enemy Lines: Temple’s Fran Dunphy

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Alvin Loke | DP File Photo

The Quakers (3-14, 0-3 Big 5) will be taking on Temple (12-5, 1-0) Wednesday night in their final Big 5 contest of the season. Though this is Fran Dunphy’s seventh year as coach of Penn's Big 5 foe, this will be the first time he takes on former player Ira Bowman, who has latched onto fellow Dunphy alum Jerome Allen as an assistant coach. Both squads have faced a lot of a changes in the past year, but the Owls have continued to dominate. I spoke with Temple coach Fran Dunphy about this familiar matchup and what his plans are heading into this local game.

After your first year as coach of Penn, you lost your top three scorers and struggled the next year.  Do you think the situation faced by Coach Allen has any parallels to what you inherited when you took the Penn job in 1989?

Dunphy: I hadn’t given it a lot of thought, but as I go down Penn’s roster and I see the young guys that they have and the hope for the future that they have, I think Jerome and everybody at Penn should feel very encouraged. I think that they are on their way to building a terrific basketball program and I think the future is very bright.

After 7 years, do you still get any special feeling when you play Penn?

Dunphy: You can’t be somewhere for as long as I was — and in this case the University of Pennsylvania — and not feel a special affinity for the place and the program and everything that it is about. Of course, then you add to it a guy that played for me and who I learned so much from as a person and as a player, so that’s a very special feeling for me. And then of course now you have on staff Ira Bowman, who also played for me. They were two great guys to coach and they have become two great friends as well.

I have tremendous memories of my days at Penn. I was the luckiest guy in America then and I am just as lucky now to have an opportunity to coach another team in the city of Philadelphia, so I feel very fortunate.

We just saw a sold-out Big 5 game at the Palestra between St. Joe's and Penn. Though now some of the games have moved to campus sites, do you ever wish that the Big 5 went back to playing all of the games there?

Dunphy: Well that’s certainly how I grew up and how it was when I was a player at La Salle for three years as well.  All of the games were in the Palestra, so that’s what college basketball in Philadelphia was all about. Certainly the Palestra was college basketball’s arena. But now, times have changed, and we have all had to adapt to it. We have a very nice arena on campus. For us to go back to the Palestra to play all of our Big 5 games would be difficult for our university and athletic department at this point. Yet, I think the purist in all of us appreciates everything that went on back in the day. Would it be great to go back and do that again? Sure it would, maybe on a one year occasion or something like that if we could interrupt things. A number of years ago we tried to have all six teams play in the Palestra on a given day as a celebration of sorts, but there were too many other complications or things that got in the way to allow that to happen again.

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Behind Enemy Lines: Temple’s Tonya Cardoza

Courtesy of atlantic10.com

—Courtesy of atlantic10.com

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.

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Behind Enemy Lines: St. Joe’s assistant Mark Bass

After starting out 0-2 in Big 5 play, Penn (3-13, 0-1 Ivy) will take on St. Joe’s (9-6) at the Palestra on Saturday evening. For this edition of Behind Enemy Lines, I caught up with Hawks’ assistant coach Mark Bass, a St. Joe’s alumnus and former player who competed against Jerome Allen and Penn during his playing days. During our conversation, we talked about coach Phil Martelli’s commitment to Big 5 tradition, the Hawks’ turnaround over the last three seasons and more.

Last year, this game was listed as a home game for Penn at the Palestra, but this year it’s listed as a home game for St. Joe’s, despite also being played at the Palestra. Do you get the sense that your team enjoys coming to the Palestra for these games?

I think coach Martelli — that’s a question for him to answer, because he likes playing at the Palestra. I think any opponent would love to play the game on their home floor … But I think in his point of view, Big 5 game, he thinks it should be played at the Palestra … But personally I would love this game on home field to give us all the advantages we can get.

In last year’s game between Penn and St. Joe’s, Zack Rosen, Tyler Bernardini and Rob Belcore combined for 52 points. How does their absence change your gameplan against Penn?

I think last year’s team with those three guys — they were seniors. They had senior leadership, and we were playing with sophomores and juniors.

And now, there’s this turn that we’re playing with juniors and seniors, and they’re playing with some underclassmen. So hopefully our upperclassmen can do the same things that their seniors did last year. Those three gentlemen dominated the game last year, and we didn’t have an answer for them.

What do you see about Jerome Allen as a player that is reflected in the teams he coaches?

His passion as a player and as a coach just boils over. You can see how much passion he has on the sidelines, and he played with that same passion. And of course it rubs off on his own players, and that’s what Jerome brought as a player and he’s bringing it as a coach — his passion for the game.

Just two seasons ago, St. Joe’s finished the year well below .500 at 11-22. What have been the keys to the program’s improvement since then?

I just think guys getting better — getting better in the offseason, working on their game, working on their body, just getting better.

And that’s basketball because now in a couple years you’re going to be saying the same thing about this young group of guys at Penn. They’re taking their bumps in the road right now …so next year they should be better. And that’s what happened with us. Two years ago, we won 11 games. Last year, we won 20.

So it’s about getting better, not getting down on yourself and getting better as an individual and as a team. I think if you look at our team and you look at the Penn team now, they were along similar lines. That’s what I see with our team, and I think this young core group of guys that Penn has are doing the same thing that we have. They’re going to get better just as we’ve gotten better and hopefully continue to get better.

Do you have any memorable moments from your playing days competing against Jerome Allen and Penn?

I just remember Jerome Allen and Matt Maloney — those two guys were a great backcourt — and just playing against those two and assistant coach Ira Bowman. It was just some good matchups and memorable moments playing in the Palestra against those guys.

I really can’t pick out a specific game or what-have-you. I just know matching up it was going to be a tough night for us guarding those three guys night in and night out.

Behind Enemy Lines: NJIT’s Jim Engles

Jim EnglesThursday night, Penn (2-13) heads north to Newark, N.J., to take on NJIT (9-8) for the first time since the 2009-10 season (see preview). Former Highlanders and current Quakers assistant coach Ira Bowman will return to face the program for which he spent the previous four years coaching under Jim Engles (see story).

In this segment of Behind Enemy Lines, we spoke with Engles about turning around the program at NJIT, which set an all-time NCAA Division I worst record of 0-29 the season before he took over. In his first year, the Highlanders posted a 1-30 record but reached the 15-win threshold in his third and fourth seasons. Engles also has a connection to Penn — his uncle John Engles played for Penn from 1973-76 and landed in the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 1995.

What was it like to step into an environment as the head coach where the team had been 0-29 the season before?
I think the one thing that really helped me to understand the environment was when I went to Columbia, we took over a program that was very similar in a lot of different ways -- really good academic school, was 0-14 in the Ivy League at the time, I think was last in the RPI, the worst team in the country. And just seeing and working for Joe Jones, working with him for five years like I did, seeing how he was able to -- in college it's a process because you have to bring in players and they have to develop and it's not like you can go out and, especially in a place like ours and in the Ivy League, you can't go out and recruit anyone. There isn't a quick fix to it. Continue reading

Behind Enemy Lines: Princeton’s Courtney Banghart

Princeton women's hoops coach Courtney Banghart has won seven Ivy League Championships as a player and coach. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Princeton women's hoops coach Courtney Banghart has won seven Ivy League Championships as a player and coach. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Today, I was able to interview Princeton women’s basketball head coach Courtney Banghart. In her six seasons as head coach for the Tigers, the program has undergone a complete reversal of fortune. In her first season, the team went 7-23 and won just four Ivy League games. However, in the past three seasons, the Tigers have gone 41-1 in the Ivy League and entered the national rankings, a first for an Ivy League women’s program. Before coming to Princeton, she was an assistant for four years at Dartmouth. She also played at Dartmouth from 1996 to 2000 and won two Ivy League titles.

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