For Penn women’s lacrosse, defense has always been a means for winning games. And at the heart of that stellar defense is junior goalkeeper Lucy Ferguson .
In just her second year with the Quakers, the William and Mary transfer has established herself not just as one of the best keepers in the Ivy League, but as one of the best in the nation.
And for those who have followed Ferguson’s career to any extent, this isn’t much of a surprise.
Ferguson began her collegiate career at William and Mary, spurning Penn due to her desire to play immediately. Had she chosen Penn initially, she would have been stuck behind then-senior goalkeeper Emily Leitner .
“She was somebody we really wanted,” Penn coach Karin Brower Corbett said when asked about Ferguson last season. “As a freshman she knew she could play [at William & Mary] and that wasn’t the case here ... She just wants to play.”
During her freshman season at William and Mary, Ferguson showed exactly why Penn had coveted her. Despite deciding to transfer to Penn prior to the season, Ferguson put on a very effective performance, ranking fourth in the nation in saves with 172 and fifth in saves per game with 10.12.
With the chance to join Penn and fill the shoes of Leitner, Ferguson rose to the challenge immediately and quickly established herself as one of the elite keepers in the Ivy League.
Last season saw the then-sophomore goalkeeper earn an unanimous first team All-Ivy selection along with Ivy League Tournament Most Outstanding Player, while playing all but six minutes of Penn’s 17-game schedule.
“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 last season. “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 this season has just shown the continuation of that development. Ferguson is posting a career-high .485 save percentage and career-low goals against average of 8.20.
It’s not as though Ferguson’s success is the result of any sort of subpar competition. Unlike many NCAA sports, women’s lacrosse is one in which the Ivy League is ultra-competitive on the national level, with seven of the Ancient Eight ranked among the RPI top 40 and four teams in the top 21.
And that’s not even mentioning Penn’s nonconference schedule. Ferguson has gone up against three of the top five programs in the nation, including the NCAA’s best scoring offense in defending champion North Carolina.
Last weekend against then-No.6 Northwestern, Ferguson held the Wildcats nearly four goals below their season average, though her efforts weren’t enough for Penn to come through with the win.
“The offense has to step up to win games,” Corbett said following wins against Harvard and Yale this season. “We can’t rely solely on our defense, even though it’s been stellar.”
In her second season with the Red and Blue, that’s exactly what Ferguson is anchoring, a stellar defense. A defense ranked 19th in goals against average despite facing some of the toughest competition in the nation.
Even though an offensive outburst might be key to Penn picking up big wins this season, look for the team to continue to be steadied by the excellent keeping of Ferguson as it hunts for its eighth consecutive Ivy League title.