For Penn’s most successful program in recent years, it’s business as usual.
With eyes on another Ivy trophy, an Ivy Tournament title and a deep run in the NCAA championships, the Quakers certainly have high expectations for the coming spring.
It’s nothing new for Penn women’s lacrosse, a program which has claimed at least a share of the last six Ancient Eight titles and has reached the Final Four three times during that span.
But if last year taught the Quakers anything, it was that they are facing a period of relative parity at the top. Due to the Ivy’s complex tiebreaking procedure, the Quakers needed and got a win in their league finale against Princeton to secure an outright championship.
“Ivy League is always a battle … if one of us didn’t make it, we weren’t going to the [Ivy] tournament,” senior midfielder Maddie Poplawski said. “It’s definitely competitive. I’m sure Princeton and Dartmouth still have the big guns they did last year.”
The departure of arguably two of the most decorated players in program history in goalkeeper Emily Leitner and attack Erin Brennan means the Quakers have big holes to fill.
“Those two aren’t replaceable,” coach Karin Brower Corbett said. “They were such great leaders for us on both ends of the field and … two players we sincerely miss.”
But with an experienced senior class and 10 new players, including William & Mary transfer Lucy Ferguson, the Quakers are counting on a new dimension of depth and speed that they didn’t have before.
“It’s exciting that we have more depth this year,” Brower Corbett added. “We just struggled with injuries last year, and we didn’t have many subs.”
“We’ve been able to stay with teams, like Penn State, tackling back and getting the ball back,” senior attack Caroline Bunting said.
In addition to new players, Penn will rely on Bunting and junior Courtney Tomchik to pick up the scoring while midfielders Poplawski and Meredith Cain control the tempo in the middle of the field.
With the season opener against Drexel in just two days, Penn will soon have a taste of what is to come — matchups against some of the country’s toughest teams.
“We do have Maryland, Northwestern and UNC, and those are obviously three top-five teams,” Brower Corbett said. “We want to play that and we want to win an Ivy League Championship but beyond that we want to go deep in the NCAA Tournament and the Final Four.”
The rough non-conference slate will be even more important as the Quakers look to prepare for a run in the NCAA Tournament. After being dropped by Dartmouth in last year’s Ivy tournament, the Quakers had to wait for an at-large bid and were one of the last teams to qualify for the tournament.
This year, the tournament is expanding to 24 teams, up from 20 last year, and as long as Penn is in a similar position, it could use the extra time and the late April game against Northwestern to fine-tune for the tournament, instead of forcing another must-win game.
“We’ve been Ivy League champions the past three seasons and that’s definitely one of our big goals, and this year we were ranked in the top-12 and we see the national championship in sight,” Poplawski said.