Lucy Ferguson was a consistent — and consistently excellent — presence in the net for the Red and Blue after transferring from William & Mary in 2012. Ferguson was named first-team All-Ivy in each of her three seasons at Penn, missing just 50 minutes of game action during that time.
But now, Ferguson’s 2015 graduation leaves a gaping hole in the net as Penn women’s lacrosse seeks to bounce back from a disappointing season in which saw the Quakers fail to win the Ivy League for the first time since 2006.
“It’s really hard. For the last five years you’ve had the number one Ivy goalie,” Penn coach Karin Corbett said. “We had Emily Leitner for two years and then we were blessed to get Lucy as a transfer, who was one of the best goalies in the country. So [losing] that is hard.”
Without a star in the net, the Red and Blue will have to adjust, and it will be a team-wide effort.
“Lucy was a goalie that was extremely athletic, and saved shots that most goalies wouldn’t save,” Corbett said. “The key really for us now is putting a good defense in front of our goalkeeper to [enable them] to save the shots that they can save. And that’s always been what our defense has been about, to have our goals against average very low. That’s a defensive stat, not necessarily a goalkeeper stat. We need to, first and foremost, put a defense in front that can make our goalkeeper successful.”
With Ferguson gone, there are several candidates to fill the vacant goalie position. Senior Courtney Rushford, junior transfer Britt Brown and freshman Maggie Smith are battling for the spot in the net, but aren’t losing sight of the team’s larger goals.
“We all want each other to get better,” Brown said. “Some days I have a bad day, some days they have a bad day ... I don’t think it matters to us, I think we’re set on one goal of an Ivy championship.”
“Obviously it’s a competitive position,” Rushford said. There’s only one spot on the field for a goalie, but I think we’ve got a really good attitude about it. Everyone’s very friendly and we’re all best friends off the field and on the field. [We] support each other every play, every drill, every practice. At the end of the day it’s all for the benefit of the team.”
“I think they have a good relationship that’s competitive and yet really supportive,” Corbett said. “That’s always a tough position as a goalkeeper. To have three goalies who really pull for one another, and yet compete with one another is a great, unique kind of situation.”
Having spent three years under Ferguson as a backup, Rushford is certainly more familiar with the system than her fellow net-minders. But going from playing behind Ferguson to playing instead of her is not an easy switch to make.
“I think that Rushford understands our defense a little bit more,” Corbett said. “But you can’t really learn much from Lucy. It’s not that easy to learn from Lucy because you can’t play like Lucy — not many people in the country can play like Lucy. Lucy was doing splits, and had tremendous height and hand-eye coordination ... with these goalies, it’s more about their positioning and cutting off angles. These goalies need to be more technical.”
So who will the role fall to? For now, the coach plans to ride the hot hand.
“It’s day to day, week to week. It’s about who’s playing better.”
And none of the three players will ever find themselves playing better than Ferguson. But that’s not what matters.
“I want to win an Ivy League championship,” Brown said. “I couldn’t care less about Lucy’s percentages.”
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