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Lady Lions Show Potential Throughout Up-And-Down Season

Penn State women’s basketball’s season was often underwhelming.

While the Lady Lions put together the best season yet under Carolyn Kieger’s tutelage, and one of the best seasons in many years, blowout losses and losing streaks made it difficult to feel positive about the team.

But the Lady Lions are in a rebuild — however slow it may be — and the 2022-23 season demonstrated that the program is still on the windy, long road to success.

The 2023 Big Ten Tournament marked the first time the Lady Lions won a tournament game since 2018. Despite the loss to No. 17 Michigan in the second round, Penn State played its best basketball of the season against the Wolverines and the day before against Minnesota.

“We’ve been battling all year to become the team that we were the past few days, and I’m just happy that they get to feel what it feels like to be winners,” Kieger said after the Michigan loss. “We’ve been trying to get to this point of what it feels like to empty your tank. And I think they all understand what that feels like.”

Across the entirety of the season, Penn State had tried, and often failed, to put together an aggressive press that would make teams uncomfortable and force turnovers. The Lady Lions were one of the best teams in the nation when it came to stealing the ball, but that didn’t make much of an impact when it came to keeping the ball out of the net.

Against Michigan, Kieger’s press worked to perfection. The Wolverines were held to just 63 points, their third-lowest point total of the season, while Penn State recorded 13 steals and forced 20 turnovers. It was what Lady Lion basketball was supposed to look like all season.

The Lady Lions took the game against Michigan all the way to the final possession, and all without one of its best players. Shay Ciezki had gone down against Minnesota with an ankle injury, which held her out of action on Thursday.

“I thought they were phenomenal,” Kieger said of Leilani Kapinus and Makenna Marisa, two of Penn State’s top two scorers and leaders on the team. “I don’t think they could have led any better tonight.”

Marisa will be staying with the team for her fifth year next season, and with that, the group’s top three performers — Ciezki, Kapinus, and Marisa — will all be back.

“We still have work to do to put Penn State on the map,” Marisa said simply.

Kapinus and Ciezki, a sophomore and freshman, respectively, will also see another offseason of development. It’s hard not to feel that both will be featured on several watch lists throughout the offseason.

Penn State women’s basketball is still several years away from making an NCAA Tournament. It’s possible that the program is still several years away from making the WNIT. All the same, there is potential in the team, even if it doesn’t always show.

Until the Lady Lions are in the postseason, Kieger won’t be satisfied with her time at the program. Throughout the entire season, she repeated the goal of reaching the postseason, even as those hopes began drifting away. After the Big Ten Tournament ended for Penn State, that mantra continued.

“We’re not pleased. We’re not satisfied,” she said. “We want to be playing in March, and we want to be in that NCAA Tournament.”

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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