LEWISTOWN - There is certainly no love lost between Penn State and Notre Dame on most occasions, but there is normally an exception to every rule somewhere along the way.
In the case of Lady Lion basketball coach Coquese Washington, she's it.
Washington, who will be entering her fourth season at Penn State, was a standout player for the Fighting Irish from 1989 to 1993. After several seasons playing for the WNBA's New York Liberty and Houston Comets, she returned to her alma mater to begin her coaching career in South Bend.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Penn State women’s basketball coach Coquese Washington speaks to the Lewistown Rotary Club after the club’s annual golf tournament at Lewistown Country Club Wednesday.
Then after Rene Portland's resignation from Penn State, Washington was named the fifth coach in Lady Lions' history.
Wednesday, Washington was on hand at Lewistown Country Club as the guest speaker at the annual Lewistown Rotary Club golf tournament. And although she is naturally excited to begin her fourth campaign in the Bryce Jordan Center, there was something else on her mind as well.
"This is my absolute favorite time of the year because I absoletely love football," she told the audience. "I know you all thought I was going to talk about basketball, but I love football. And Penn State - you guys are just crazy about football. That games are so much fun and so exciting and I'm so looking forward to this season."
And her take on the upcoming year?
"I know everybody thinks we're going to struggle a little bit with a new quarterback, but I think coach Paterno is going to rally the troops," Washington said. "Penn State is just a tremendous sports community and whatever sport you like, this time of year always gets your juices going.
"We're all excited about the kids coming back to campus and going to the football games and going to the volleyball matches and all that good stuff. It's just that time of year where you really get excited."
Washington then went on to talk about her Lady Lion squad - a team that returned to postseason play in 2009-10 for the first time since 2005.
"To tell you a little bit about our team this year, I think we're really poised to have a great season," she said. "We're got four All-Americans on our team, but we're going to be a young team. We've got 11 players and eight of them are freshmen or sophomores."
One of those sophomores - starting point guard Alex Bentley - will play a major role on the squad, Washington said.
"She's probably the heart and soul of our team," Washington said. "She was a third-team All-American as a freshman last year, she was named to the all-freshman team in the Big Ten and she's just a phenomenal player and an outstanding athlete."
Nikki Greene, a sophomore center, will be another player that Washington is looking for bigger things from.
"She can actually dunk the basketball so we're hoping she can get one in a game this year - she's a little shy about doing it in front of a lot of people so when you come just be really quiet," Washington quipped.
But one comment may have garnered a bit more of a crowd response than any of the others - simply because of a name from Lady Lions' past.
"We've got Maggie Lucas - a freshman out of Philadelphia - she's a McDonald's All-American out of high school," Washington said. "She shoots the ball like Kelly Mazzante. I mean, when she lets it go, you're really surprised when it misses."
Lucas is just one of the freshman that will be counted on to get Penn State back on top of the Big Ten - something that Washington says will be a team goal.
"We've got some really fantastic freshman that are going to be playing for us this year," she said. "I anticipate that they are really going to help us and really get us going. We want to knock off Ohio State - they've been the best team in the conference for the last couple years and we've got to get rid of them."
Washington's fourth season at Penn State will begin on Nov. 12 at Dayton before returning for the home opener against Rider on Nov. 14.