After a tough loss against a ranked Duke squad, No. 16 Penn women’s lacrosse has turned the page, notching four straight victories in the process.
The Quakers (5-1, 1-0 Ivy) returned home from their, 12-6, loss to the Blue Devils (5-4) to face Rutgers on March 2, a team they handily beat, 15-8. Going into spring break, the Red and Blue were 2-1 with the schedule just starting to pick up.
Penn took down Brown (4-2, 0-1) in its first Ivy contest of the season on March 5, capturing the win in a defensive-laden match, 8-3. The Quakers followed up that result with a victory over their cross-city rivals, Saint Joseph’s (1-5), 12-6. Even though coach Karin Corbett’s team outscored the two at a clip of 20-9, she pinpointed the team’s greatest challenge.
“In both games we had pretty good first halves where we were able to take that lead,” Corbett said. “Second half, both games, I felt that we didn’t play at the same pace and the same level as we did in those first halves. So I was a little frustrated after that Saint Joe’s game and felt we weren’t communicating well.”
For the Quakers, it was imperative to play a complete game before the schedule reached its hardest point — with games against undefeated Towson, top-ranked Maryland and then six Ivy League match-ups in the last seven contests.
Fortunately, Saturday’s tilt with Georgetown was that game for the Red and Blue. Penn held control from start to finish to notch a 15-8 win over the Hoyas (1-5). The Quakers proved to Corbett that they are ready to compete in 2016.
“Today I thought we finally put it together. We were finishing on both ends and really going after the game. I was really pleased to see that,” Corbett said. “We need to get better each game. I felt that we really ended spring break as a better team than at the start of the season.”
On defense, Penn has quickly shown that losing three four-year starters will not be the end-all, be-all on the season. With just one returning starter from the previous four years in junior defender Megan Kelly, maintaining a nationally revered reputation was destined to be a tall order. Credit new starters like senior Liz Gully, sophomore Katie Cromie, and freshman Katy Junior in this smooth transition.
“I think that a strength of ours is defense,” Corbett said. “It takes a little bit for them to understand it but we really harp on positioning and how to play defense with communication and how we play as a unit and I think they’re starting to click with that which is great."
On offense, the team is heating up. After scoring 18 goals in their first two games, the Quakers have since erupted, picking up 50 goals in the four games since then.
The team can thank a lot of its usual suspects for the offensive fireworks: senior attacks Iris Williamson, Nina Corcoran and Catherine Dickinson and midfielder Lely DeSimone have each had hot sticks thus far. However, this season has also seen the rise of two juniors: midfielder Emily Rogers-Healion and attack Sarah Barcia.
DeSimone says that Barcia and Rogers-Healion’s rise to prominence was not unexpected, rather it was an intended part of their new game plan.
“The best attacks in the country have everyone in the attack scoring,” she noted.
For Penn to move closer to being a nationally competitive offense, they will continue to rely on Corcoran to dish out smart passes that lead to points. She currently has 18 assists in six games, which is a faster pace than her 2015 performance in which she broke the school’s season assists record with 40 helpers in 19 games.
“Nina is just a great player. She’s a great leader on the attack. She has great game sense and vision on that field,” DeSimone said about her co-captain. “She also gives everyone else the confidence to go to goal and trust them to go to goal and make the right decisions. She’s a great feeder and she’s also a great challenger and she has a lot of intensity that she brings to the game.”
Now, the Quakers are gearing up for another battle against a ranked opponent: No. 15 Towson, who is in the top-five in goals against per game. The key to victory, to Corbett, is confidence.
“Well I think it’s about playing with a lot of confidence and playing to our strengths,” Corbett said, adding that the team needs to play “like they want to win, not like they’re afraid to lose.”
DeSimone took the positive result against Georgetown as a great teaching tool for the Quakers’ upcoming contest against the Tigers (6-0). Her key to the game is “focusing on building and growing as a team and just keep driving hard and doing what we did [on Saturday] against Georgetown.”
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