Lucy Ferguson wants to play.
That’s all she’s ever wanted to do and that’s partly why she didn’t originally choose Penn for her collegiate lacrosse career. As a goalkeeper, she would have been up against then-senior starting goalie Emily Leitner, so her playing time as a freshman for the Quakers was far from guaranteed.
Instead, she chose William & Mary, where she was promised that a program would be built around her.
“She was somebody we really wanted,” Penn coach Karin Brower Corbett said. “As a freshman she knew she could play [at William & Mary] and that wasn’t the case here … She just wants to play.”
But shortly upon her arrival at William & Mary, coach Christine Halfpenny left for Notre Dame, leaving the Tribe coachless and with no prospects in sight. Ferguson made the decision to transfer to Penn in October.
But first, she had a season to play. William & Mary finished 4-13 and Ferguson recorded 172 saves to amass a .457 save percentage.
The sophomore admitted it was “a little weird” to be starting in goal for a team she knew she was shortly leaving.
“But every time I step onto the field I want to do my best and I want to win, so as soon as my team there saw that, I had their support,” Ferguson said.
When she first stepped onto Franklin Field, it didn’t take long to make an impact. Through four games, she has a .484 save percentage and after allowing just five goals off 19 shots in Penn’s league opener victory over Harvard, she was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week.
Much of her early success has come from her teammates easing the transition.
“It’s been really easy and fun,” Ferguson said. “I love it at Penn … It’s not been hard at all.”
She knew sophomores Leah McBride, Lindsey O’Loughlin and Grace Newfrock from club play, and they included her in their plan to live together in an off-campus house.
“It’s a credit to my team, they’re really accepting of anybody new,” Corbett said.
And while not everything about transferring is easy and fun — Ferguson admitted to academic and social challenges which she embraces — balancing the intensity and competitiveness of the lacrosse program with a rigorous school schedule is no easy feat.
On the other hand, her serious nature and focus is a major strength. It makes her better, it makes the defense better and it allows her to learn from every mistake.
She doesn’t have the voice and fire of two-year starter Leitner, who was “one of our loudest and rowdiest players,” Corbett said. But they’re working on it.
“Lucy right now is trying to figure out what we’re doing on defense and I think she’s doing a great job trying to come out of her shell,” senior midfield Maddie Poplawski said. “She’s definitely talking a little more, we’re trying to get her to talk more each day.”
Ferguson doesn’t want to talk too much, though. Rather, she describes her style as “direct.” To the point, no-nonsense. Which is fine, because she’s quick, accurate and has great hand-eye coordination. Corbett says it’s her biggest strength.
“We’re amazed, I would say at least three or four times a week [at] some of the saves that she’s had,” Corbett said. “It just looks like there’s nothing — she’s out of the cage, she’s off-angle and comes up with kick saves and point-blank saves. In three seconds she can have two, three saves, it’s unreal.”
And because of that raw skill, Corbett has a lot to work with, despite Ferguson’s relative unfamiliarity with the defense. They’re making small tweaks to her game and seeing what works and what doesn’t. So far, the progress has been good.
Penn’s defense has been solid, especially in the last two games. Pieces began to fall into place in a 14-5 win versus Harvard.
After a 6-5 loss to Rutgers last week, “we needed to bring our effort and everything onto attack,” Poplawski said. “Against Harvard, that was able to show and we got everything to work together.”
The Red and Blue continue to look up as they face Yale at home Saturday.
“Having an Ivy League opponent is huge, but every opponent for us is big,” Corbett said. “We need to be better, we need to get better every day and that’s what we’re stressing.”