Penn women's lacrosse beats Canisius in first round of NCAA Tournament

The Quakers raced out to a five-goal lead and never looked back

· May 9, 2014, 7:18 pm   ·  Updated May 10, 2014, 12:36 pm

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March Madness saw Penn women's basketball do battle in the NCAA Tournament in College Park, Md. A little less than two months later, Penn women's lacrosse is following the exact same path.

Coming off a regular season in which they shared the Ivy League title for the eighth straight season before winning the Ivy League tournament last weekend, the Quakers conquered Canisius in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 9-4.

Penn's victory over the Golden Griffins (12-7) is the Red and Blue's sixth straight win since their April 16 loss to rival Princeton. The Quakers (13-4) have taken nine of 11 games since starting the season 4-2, and the team has looked strong in all aspects of the game since its loss to the Tigers.

The win is also Penn's first victory in the NCAA Tournament since 2010.

Following a weekend in which its squeaked by Harvard in double overtime before taking down Princeton in a rematch to claim the Ivy title outright, Penn did not miss a beat against Canisius after four days off.

After winning the opening faceoff, the Quakers got on the board early with an unassisted goal from senior midfield Tory Bensen. The score marked the Darien, Conn., native's 37th goal of the season, and came a mere 2:37 into the game.

From there, the Red and Blue executed the same game plan they've utilized to perfection over the past several weeks. The team opened up a wide lead thanks to an onslaught of first half goals before holding off the Golden Griffins with staunch defense throughout the rest of the contest.

With Penn leading 1-0 and 21:40 remaining in the opening frame, junior defense Meg Markham forced a Canisius turnover. 35 seconds later, sophomore midfield Iris Williamson earned a free position and notched her 13th goal of the 2014 campaign, putting the Quakers up, 2-0.

"I thought we came out pretty strong on the attack," coach Karin Brower Corbett said,. "I thought we were moving pretty well and dodging early. We limited their opportunities and fouled them too much, and played a little undisciplined.

"But it was a great first 15 minutes, and we did enough to hold on."

The Red and Blue held the Golden Griffins in check for much of the first half. The Quakers vaunted defense consistently forced turnovers, and that pressure allowed Penn's offense to outshoot Canisius, 7-1, in the game's first 15 minutes.

After the Golden Griffins took a timeout, the Quakers responded with two goals from sophomore midfields Catherine Dickinson and Brooke Kiley in a 72-second span to push the lead to four.

Bensen scored her second goal of the half with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half on an assist from sophomore midfield Nina Corcoran. Following two Canisius goals that cut Penn's lead down to three, the duo reversed roles as Bensen found Corcoran for the Quakers sixth goal of the game.

Penn entered the half leading, 7-2, as Bensen found the back of the net for the third time with only 19 seconds until the break. The Red and Blue forced six turnovers in the first 30 minutes, and held Canisius' star senior midfield Maria Kotas -- who had scored 54 goals entering Friday's game -- scoreless before halftime.

"We really came out and took it to them today," Corbett said. "We attacked on our own and did the best we could to limit their offense that way, and it really forced Canisius to struggle."

The second half was a less high-octane affair as the two teams combined for only four goals. Kotas finally got in the board with two goals early in the period, but the Quakers responded with a score each time to neutralize the Golden Griffins.

Bensen's fourth goal of the game came with 13:42 remaining, capping off the scoring as Penn's defense did the rest of the work en route to victory.

Up next for the Ivy champions is a contest with No. 1 seed Maryland on Sunday afternoon. The matchup is a rematch of a game from March 19, one in which the then-No. 2 Terrapins knocked off the Quakers at Franklin Field, 15-5.

And if the Quakers are going to take down the top-ranked team in the nation, the squad knows that it will need to perform even better than it did on Friday against the Golden Griffins.

"We were very sloppy today," Corbett said. "Maryland is so athletic that our turnovers cannot happen against them. We have to create good opportunities and be smarter with the ball.

"We had way too many unforced errors that will cost us against Maryland, so it's just about being tougher and better on Sunday."

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