It’s time for another battle of top women’s lacrosse programs at Franklin Field. Penn women’s lacrosse will play host to Northwestern in the teams’ ninth head-to-head matchup in the past eight seasons.
The Quakers (6-3, 1-1 Ivy) now play host after losing two straight games in the regular season for the first time in three years. The first defeat came at the hands of first-ranked Maryland and the second, also on the road, was courtesy of an unranked Dartmouth team playing spoiler.
“Hopefully it’s a wake-up call,” coach Karin Corbett said about the current skid. “We did not come to play with the heart and the fight that Dartmouth had and hopefully we learned a lesson.”
Corbett later went on to note that Dartmouth had more urgency as a team that had already lost intra-conference.
“We needed to play that way — with [the mindset of having suffered] a loss — [but] without a loss.”
On the flip side, the eighth-ranked Wildcats (4-4) have had a relatively pedestrian record, but their four losses have come against the nation’s second, fourth, 10th and 12th ranked teams. Thus far, the Quakers’ and Wildcats’ only common opponent was No. 12 Duke, with Northwestern downing them, 11-8, and Penn falling, 12-6.
History is certainly present between the two programs: In 2009, the Wildcats took down the Quakers in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. The prior year, Northwestern split the season series with Penn, losing in the regular season but winning on the grander stage — the national championship. Since that fateful match, the Red and Blue have lost their last seven matchups to the Wildcats.
“There is a long history of a rivalry. It’s a game we always get up for and Northwestern gets up for it too,” Corbett said. “It has been a fun rivalry — we haven’t been on the winning side of that — but we enjoy playing them and enjoy the competition and how they fight for the game as much as we fight for the game.”
This year’s matchup is not just about avenging past losses. It’s a chance to pick up the signature win that the team needs heading into the thick of Ivy League play. Senior captain and attacker Nina Corcoran believes that Saturday’s matchup is a statement game for the Red and Blue.
“I think Northwestern is a huge game for us every year,” she said. “They’re obviously always a top team. It’s competitive and it can show who we are as a program so we’re excited to play them and get into Ivies.”
Onto the current squads: Penn’s attack, headlined by Corcoran — who ranks second in the nation in assists per game — will face a tough challenge against Northwestern’s defense, which is strong both in transition and zone clearances.
“I think it’s just going to be [about] being smart with the ball. We have to have quick ball movement. We have to really work them,” Corcoran said. “They play very high pressure so it’s [about] being smart and driving with confidence to see those openings.”
Northwestern is equipped with a “potent attack,” according to Corbett, who added that the Wildcats is very strong in their fast breaks. Corbett believes that Penn will need to keep possession as much as possible.
Fortunately for the team’s defense, the goalie situation has proven to be a strength so far. Last year, Lucy Ferguson, a three-time first team All-Ivy recipient, graduated from the program. To counteract that, Corbett was able to bring in Britt Brown, a former recruit of the school who began her career at Virginia before transferring in this year. Slightly past the halfway mark of the season, the junior sports a .508 save percentage that puts her in the top-15 in the nation. Corbett is thankful for the presence that her starting goalkeeper has had thus far.
“We had hoped that she could come here and be the goalie that we always thought she would be as a recruit and I’m really proud of her,” the coach said. “She gives us chances to stay in a game. She gives us chances to win a game. She’s very confident back there.”
Going into this game, the team will be looking for refinement in many areas before the start of Ivy League play. After two consecutive losses, Corcoran is excited to see how the team rebounds on Saturday.
“It happened, we can’t change it,” she said of the two-game losing streak. “But it’s [about] the learning experience from it, getting better, not making mistakes, and still having confidence in how good we are and how we’re going to continue with our season.”
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