A trying season for the young Quakers is about to get even tougher.
No. 8 Penn hosts No. 3 Maryland Friday, but will have to do so without leading goal scorer Maddie Poplawski, who is out with a concussion.
“She’s a factor all over the field,” senior goalkeeper Emily Leitner said of her junior teammate. “It’s a loss for sure. She’s been playing out of her mind this year.”
Poplawski leads the Red and Blue (5-2, 3-0 Ivy) with 15 goals and takes most of the team’s draws. However, her presence will be missed all over the field as Maryland (10-2, 2-1 ACC) boasts the nation’s fourth-best defense and eighth-best offense, scoring 14.9 goals per game.
“She is one of our best match up defenders,” junior attack Caroline Bunting said. “She’s amazing transitioning the ball up the field.”
Her absence is yet another test for a Quaker squad that has been beset with injuries.
“We’ve been playing through adversity all season,” coach Karin Brower Corbett said.
Penn will welcome back sophomore defender Lydia Miller, who missed last weekend’s game with a concussion of her own.
“She’s a big vocal leader on defense,” Leitner said. “[It’s] going to be huge to have [Lydia] back.”
Penn has also recently had a flair for the dramatic as three of their last four games have been decided by two goals or less.
The Quakers have gone 3-1 during that stretch, including their win last Saturday, an 11-10 thriller at Cornell.
Leitner said it is a good feeling knowing that the team is capable of mounting comebacks and executing in tight situations.
Nevertheless, Corbett attributed the close games to Penn’s sloppy play. She hopes to see a cleaner game Friday against the Terrapins.
Even at full strength, the Quakers would face a stiff test against Maryland.
The Terps are ranked 14th in the country in caused turnovers, and last season handed the Quakers their worst loss since 2007, a 16-4 defeat at College Park.
But the Quakers are motivated to not repeat last season’s performance and are looking forward to having another crack at the team.
“Everyone who played or was on the team last year remembers that [game],” Leitner said. “It was pretty embarrassing for a lot of us. We’re supposed to be a top-caliber team and then we get our butts kicked.”
“There’s some bad blood there,” Bunting added. “So we’re definitely looking to come back and kill them a little bit better.”
The Quakers also face Columbia (1-6, 0-4 Ivy) Sunday at 1 p.m. at Franklin Field as they move back to league play.