Senior midfield Tory Bensen has never beaten Northwestern during her Penn career, but that streak could come to an end on Sunday.

Credit: Michele Ozer

Alumni weekend and a matchup with one of its biggest nonconference rivals is the perfect recipe to help Penn women’s lacrosse move on from some turmoil last weekend.

“It’s fun to have [alumni] back and be able to talk about the glory days and also see what they’re doing today,” coach Karin Brower Corbett said. “It’s always a fun weekend.”

The No. 12 Quakers (6-2) will welcome back their alumni this weekend for Saturday’s Alumni Game before taking on No.6 Northwestern in a huge rivalry game on Sunday.

Despite not playing in the same conference or having any geographic significance, Penn and Northwestern (6-3) have developed a rivalry in the NCAA Tournament and maintained it through yearly regular season matchups.

The Red and Blue lost to the Wildcats in three consecutive tournaments from 2007 to 2009 ­— twice in the Final Four and once in the championship — as the Wildcats established their place at the top of NCAA women’s lacrosse with their third, fourth and fifth consecutive titles.

“I feel like it’s the Red Sox — Yankees rivalry, and we’re like the Red Sox in this one, on the short end of that,” Corbett said. “We get excited to play them; I think they get excited to play us. We’re looking forward to it.”

Though the rivalry has been one-sided — Penn is 1-11 all-time against Northwestern — the Quakers see this as an opportunity to pick up a huge win against a ranked opponent after their 8-6 win earlier in the week against No. 19 Georgetown.

“One of the biggest things [against Georgetown] was our energy,” senior midfield Tory Bensen said. “We really came together as a unit on the field both defensively and on the offensive end, so we’re looking to carry that energy and that confidence into this weekend.”

One of the keys to the game will be maintaining draw control. Penn edged Georgetown in that regard, tallying nine to Georgetown’s seven, but Northwestern poses even more of a challenge in that regard.

The Wildcats are averaging 14.88 draw controls per game this year, good enough for 10th best in the nation. On the other hand, the Quakers have been struggling in that regard all season, averaging just 7.86, which ranks close to the bottom nationally.

Penn has faced a difficult schedule this season, having already faced off against the two top-ranked programs in the nation in North Carolina and Maryland. However, a win against Northwestern would provide the team with its first win against a top 10 team this season.

“They’re a big top program and they just had a huge win over North Carolina,” Corbett said. “So this is an opportunity for us to have a really big win in the top 10 against such a great historic program and it would mean so much for us.”

For the Quakers, that might be easier said than done, but Penn is certainly ready to take on the challenge.

“We have to keep our composure,” Bensen said. “They have a very fast-paced defense and their strength is throwing attacks off balance and keeping them from doing what they want to do, but we’ve been prepping every day — we know what we’re going to see, so it’s just a matter of staying composed.”

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