Winning is a state of mind. And for Penn women’s lacrosse, it’s the only state of mind the members of the team have ever known.
For nearly a decade, the program has fostered a culture of winning, claiming eight straight Ivy League titles from 2007 to 2014 and earning nine straight NCAA bids.
With the expectation of victory, the team seemed poised to stand atop the Ancient Eight as the perennial champion. That is, until 2015.
Despite a strong season, which saw the team go 14-5 overall and 6-1 in Ivy play, the team faltered in the Ivy League Championship game against Princeton, falling 14-11 to the Tigers.This was especially difficult for the team to swallow, considering the Quakers had arguably three of the best players in the conference — senior attack Tory Bensen, 2015 Ivy League Attacker of the Year; senior defender Meg Markham, 2014 and 2015 Ivy League Defender of the Year; and senior goalkeeper Lucy Ferguson, a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection.
“I think we actually had the right personnel to win,” coach Karin Corbett said. “I think Princeton was better that day, and that was frustrating.”
While forgoing its spot at the top of the conference was extremely disappointing for the team, the Red and Blue still earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. There, the Quakers won their first round contest against Albany before eventually falling to No. 4 Syracuse in the Round of 16.
Despite making the NCAA Championships, the feeling of losing to rival Princeton and relinquishing the Ivy League title did not sit well with the players — as no one on the roster had ever played a season without finishing victorious as Ivy Champs.
“It was a horrible feeling,” said now-senior captain Nina Corcoran, who led the team with 40 assists in 2015. “It’s not a way that you want to end the season, but I think that it gives us motivation for this year.”
“It was very disappointing,” senior captain Lely DeSimone said. “We had a great team last year with a lot of starters returning and to have an amazing team and fall short of an Ivy League championship when we’ve had it eight years in a row, it was just disappointing all around.”
However, one thing is certain. Despite the loss, the culture of winning still pervades everything the team does. And the Red and Blue are certainly more motivated to win than ever before.
“We want to come back,” Corcoran said. “It’s our senior year, and we have a goal, and we are going for it. I think we are using it as momentum and trying not to dwell on the past.”
As the team moves forward into the new season, the primary goal will be addressing the holes left by the 10 seniors who graduated in 2015. These seniors combined to score 80 of the 199 total goals made by the Quakers in 2015.
“On paper, we have the most losses [of graduating seniors],” Corbett said. “But for my team, that’s not what its about. People can discount us all they want. We have a great group of fighting kids that wants to win.”
And this expectation of winning isn’t imposed by outsiders either. Rather, the members of the team believe they must set the bar high for themselves to reach their full potential.
“I think we expect ourselves to win because we hold ourselves to high standards, and we expect to come back in this year and win the Ivy League Championship,” DeSimone said. “The nice thing is I don’t think the rest of the Ivy League is expecting us to win.”
Despite the loss in 2015, the team’s goals haven’t changed. For the players and coaches, it’s about getting better every day.
With this attitude, reclaiming the Ivy title looks more and more likely. But why stop there? The Red and Blue are aiming for the coveted national title, too.
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