It’s no secret that Penn women’s lacrosse has a roster full of clutch play-makers. But none is more integral to the Quakers’ offense than senior captain Nina Corcoran.
In the four years she has spent playing for the Red and Blue, she has started all but one game and tallied an impressive 100 career assists — making the attack only the second player in Penn history to reach that milestone. Last year, she led the team and the Ancient Eight in assists with 40, and this year she is on pace to surpass that mark with 31 in just 10 games.
“Whether that’s me going to people or me drawing a fly to hit it on the cutter, I just want to get people moving and cutting through,” explains Corcoran. “They make it easy for me.”
But Corcoran doesn’t just set up her teammates for goals; she scores plenty herself. Last year she finished with 61 points, second on her team only to star midfielder Tory Bensen and fourth in the Ivy League.
Simply put, Corcoran is a play-maker. It would be a bit of an exaggeration to say that the senior runs the Quakers’ offense given the wealth of talented Penn midfielders and attacks, but Corcoran gets pretty close in most games.
“Nina is sort of the quarterback of our offense,” fellow captain Lely DeSimone said. “She’s someone who can call a play and she has great game sense and great vision of the field.”
Coach Karin Corbett agrees.
“She’s just a kid that’s not going to be shut down and really works her butt off to be the catalyst for this team,” said coach Karin Corbett of the star attack. “It doesn’t matter who she is playing, she just grinds it out and she is never intimidated.”
That fearlessness on the field has earned her the trust of her teammates when it comes to do-or-die situations. Just take last Sunday against No. 8 Northwestern, for example. With the score locked at 13 and the Wildcats entering overtime on an 8-1 run in the second half, Corcoran scored the game-winner just 58 seconds into overtime.
But Corcoran also knows what it’s like to be in that position and miss. In last year’s meeting between the Wildcats and Quakers in Evanston, Ill., Corcoran got control of the ball early in overtime. As usual, she circled behind the goal to position herself for a shot.
When the moment presented itself, the ball left her pocket and instead of burying in Northwestern’s net, it hit the pipe just wide and rebounded into the waiting pocket of a Wildcat defender. The home team then raced to the other side of the field and did what Corcoran could not, scoring a definitive goal that ended the game in a 9-8 overtime loss for Penn.
“I wouldn’t say it’s pressure,” said Corcoran. “Every senior can attest to it — when the game comes down to OT you want the ball in your stick.”
Over the years, Corbett believes that as Corcoran’s role on the team has grown, so has her ability to deliver.
“She demands a lot of herself and she takes ownership of her mistakes,” said Corbett. “It’s what you as a coach dream of — a player who learns from her mistakes and gets better each game, each day and inspires by her play.”
Considering how decorated Corcoran is, it would be easy for her to rest upon her laurels and coast in practices only to shine on game day. But that has never been the Point Lookout, N.Y., native’s mentality. Corcoran so readily inspires her teammates because her competitive spirit is insatiable.
“She is definitely one of the most competitive players,” DeSimone said. “So every day everyone sees how hard she is working and they want to work hard for her and they want to have that same level of intensity.”
Just five Ivy games remain in the 2016 season, all of which hold major implications for whether Penn can reclaim an Ivy title after failing to finish atop the league in 2015 for the first time in nine years.
In every one of those remaining minutes of game play, Corcoran will make her presence felt. But she won’t be thinking about whether she’s on pace to surpass Penn’s program record for single-season points — 76 — or her own school record for single-season assists — 40.
“I’m not thinking about the numbers,” she admits. “I just want to make a play happen.”
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