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Lady Lions Learning To ‘Fight Through Adversity’ Amid Five-Game Skid

Before this year, Penn State women’s basketball hadn’t had a winning season since the 2016-17 season, and in her fifth year, it looked like Carolyn Kieger was turning the program around and bringing it to the top of a difficult Big Ten conference.

However, the Lady Lions have lost five games in a row, and their last victory occurred on January 31 against Minnesota. Despite winning the game, the team suffered a big loss when Tay Valladay went down with a torn ACL and meniscus.

With just three games remaining in the season and NCAA Tournament chances dwindling, Kieger is aiming her team will learn from the past five outings and bring back the mentality it had before the string of losses.

“We’re trying to show them what it means to fight through adversity,” Kieger said. “When you hit the losing streak, that’s adversity. When your point guard tears her ACL, that’s adversity. Learning how to fight through adversity, that’s what this group has differently than others. I think you’ll see us respond.”

Kieger and several players said Valladay brought a sense of energy that hasn’t been replicated since she got hurt, especially on the defensive end, and Kieger recognized that.

Throughout the losing streak, Penn State’s defense hasn’t kept up with the passion and overall will to win of its opponents, and that will have to change for the team to maintain its hopes of making the NCAA Tournament.

“I would say the number one thing is toughness. Everything has to be tougher,” Kieger started her long list of necessary adjustments with. “Getting on the floor, rebounding with physicality, winning 50-50 balls, having high energy, huddles have to be really tight.”

Along with a lack of intensity, Kieger also noticed a decline in togetherness in the team’s offense. Penn State turned the ball over an uncharacteristically high 19.4 times per game during the five-game skid, compared to an average of 14.3 in the six games before it, all of which were wins.

“Everything needs to be more cohesive. Getting that chemistry is going to be huge,” Kieger said. “Assists need to go up. [Turnovers] need to go down.”

Despite the recent struggles, there is still optimism within the program, and the season-long dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament has not gone away.

With older players stepping up in the locker room and making sure accountability is taken, Penn State is hopeful it can turn the season around and win in the final stretch of the season.

“There’s a lot of basketball to be played,” Kieger said. “I still believe we can play with anyone in this conference. We’ve shown it, and now we got to make sure we stop the bleeding and fight through adversity. I think this group has the maturity and player-led leadership to do that.”

The first of the season’s last three games will be against No. 2 Ohio State in Penn State’s “Return to Rec” game. The Lady Lions played the Buckeyes in Columbus on December 10, when they were ranked No. 12. The game went to overtime, and Ohio State won 94-84.

Despite it being a test, Kieger said the rest of the season brings “some really good opportunities,” one of which will take place in Rec Hall on Thursday, February 22.

“It’s huge for belief for our team,” Kieger said of having already played, and narrowly lost to, Ohio State. “Knowing that the ball found the bottom of the net against Ohio State the first time and knowing that we took them to overtime, I think that gives us the belief that we need in order to hopefully get that upset.”

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About the Author

Michael Siroty

Michael Siroty is a freshman from Westfield, New Jersey, majoring in broadcast journalism. When he isn't writing articles or making TikToks for Onward State, Siroty is either taking a peaceful walk around Beaver Stadium or at his summer day camp job. You can contact him to discuss your sushi order or music taste on Instagram and Twitter @msiroty or by email at [email protected].

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