For nine members of Penn women’s lacrosse, Saturday will be a day of lasts. The last time they head on an Academy bus for the six-hour trek up to Cornell. The last time that they play a regular season game for the Red and Blue. And their last shot at earning the third Ivy League title of their collegiate careers.
“We not only want to win, we need to win this game,” senior attack Iris Williamson said of the road matchup. “This is definitely one of the biggest games of our season.”
Saying the game is one of the biggest of the season fails to capture just how much is riding on the result. The outcome of Saturday’s matchup against the No. 16 Big Red (11-3, 5-1 Ivy) has major implications for Penn, currently the highest-ranked Ivy at 10th in the nation.
A win means that the Quakers (11-3, 5-1) would lock down the top spot in the Ancient Eight, taking home the Ivy crown that so narrowly eluded them in 2015. A loss — and a Princeton win over Brown — would mean that the Tigers earn a second consecutive conference title. If both Penn and Princeton lose, the Quakers will have lost at the hands of the 2016 Ivy champions.
Cornell is no easy foe, however, as the Big Red boast the reigning Ivy League defensive player of the week in goalie Renee Poullott.
“They hedge really well and they help each other and they have a good strong team defense,” Williamson explained. “But we have a good, strong dynamic attack. We have a lot of people that can score, drive, pass and handle the pressure.
“And you know, they can’t defend us all.”
That multi-pronged attack will be key for the Quakers in their quest for victory – and what laurels lie beyond just a ‘W’ on the box score.
“Most of the girls felt the heartbreak of losing last year, so we want the title back where it belongs,” senior attack Catherine Dickinson said. “I think that’s the goal. That’s what we came in to do – every season we want to do that.”
Indeed, the Ivy League trophy has called University City home for eight of the last nine years. Part of that dominance comes from the culture of success inspired by Coach Karin Corbett. But this year, a big part of that dominance is because of the Class of 2016.
“We’re lucky because we are such a big presence on the team with nine girls,” Dickinson explained.
Undoubtedly, their efforts on the field are not insignificant. With one regular season game left to play, senior midfielder Nina Corcoran has already broken the Penn career record for assists with 111 – 47 of which have come in 2016. Simply put, when she is on the pitch she makes her presence felt – so much so that her teammates regard her as the quarterback of the Quakers’ offense.
In addition to Corcoran, the Red and Blue offense is dominated by seniors. Williamson, Dickinson and midfielder Lely DeSimone are all within the top six for points scored on their team and combine for a total 70 points of offense this season.
The defense is experienced too, with senior defenseman Liz Gully starting 12 of the Quakers’ 13 games this year.
Beyond the minutes they play, though, the senior class has been instrumental in setting the tone of the 2016 season.
“As a group we wanted to really show the younger girls how much we care about this and how much we want it,” Williamson said of her classmates’ desire to add another ring to their fingers by graduation.
“I think a lot of that came with just showing them how much we wanted it every day in practice, working hard, never giving up and telling them what it’s like to win a championship, what it’s like to go out and beat Princeton.”
So far, the hard work has been put in, the win over Princeton has been clinched and all that’s left is that championship ring.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.