The ‘young’ women’s lacrosse team looked like old pros at Penn Park Friday night.
The No. 1-seeded Quakers opened the game with three goals on their first three possessions and never looked back, beating No. 4 Harvard, 9-5, in the semifinal of the four-team Ivy League tournament.
The Red and Blue (9-6, 7-1 Ivy) will face Dartmouth Sunday at noon at Penn Park for the championship and the Ivy League’s NCAA tournament bid.
“What we wanted our attack to do was really work their defense,” Penn coach Karin Brower Corbett said. “I think we were really moving well and not forcing things and creating opportunity.”
The Quakers’ first two goals came from sophomore Courtney Tomchik. But it was junior Meredith Cain who took over, earning a hat trick with the last three goals of the first half to put Penn up, 6-1, at the break.
Junior Maddie Poplawski added another goal to open the second half, extending Penn’s lead to six, its largest of the night.
But the Crimson would not go away.
Harvard senior Melanie Baskind scored two consecutive goals to cut Penn’s lead to four.
The Crimson (9-7, 5-3) got within three, but a score from Tomchik with under a minute remaining sealed the win for the Quakers.
Penn’s young defense, which includes multiple freshmen, stifled the Crimson attack from the opening draw. Harvard had possession for many minutes at different points in the game, but had trouble getting the ball past the defense and senior goalkeeper and co-captain Emily Leitner.
“[The defense] played awesome,” Leitner said. “They were really helping each other. It wasn’t just one person going out on the ball alone. Everyone was hedging. That’s why it took Harvard a long time to get a shot and when they got a shot, it was a rushed one.
“We had pressure on them from the start … I think the defense played one of the best games they played all season.”
Leitner was the real star for Penn, stopping shot after shot as the Crimson tried to work their way back into the game.
Despite outshooting the Quakers, 10-7, in the first half, Harvard managed just one goal, and Leitner came up with three saves. She finished the night with 10 saves, five ground balls and two caused turnovers.
“We have a very young defense and [Leitner] is the rock behind them and just comes up big for us every game,” Corbett said.
The No. 2 Big Green beat No. 3 Cornell in the first game of the day, 9-8, to earn a berth in the final.
Dartmouth (11-4, 6-2) is the only Ivy team Penn lost to in the regular season. The Quakers fell, 9-7, in Hanover, N.H., on April 14.
Tickets for Sunday’s championship game are $5 for students and $10 for adults.