For some teams, a year away from the top only strengthens the desire for success. After winning the Ivy League championship eight years straight, Penn women’s lacrosse took a brief respite from their winning ways in 2015.
In 2016, the No. 10 Quakers sealed their ninth Ancient Eight title in 10 years with a 10-6 victory over Cornell on Saturday.
As a team that graduated 10 seniors a year ago — a group that took up more than half of the starting lineup in 2015 and picked up almost half of the team’s goals — many counted out the Quakers (12-3, 6-1 Ivy) to renew their claim on the Ivy League championship, according to coach Karin Corbett.
“I’m really proud. We had graduated a lot of great players last year, kids who had a lot of experience. We have a very young defense. I think a lot of people counted us out,” she said, noting that most pegged Princeton, Cornell and Harvard as the teams to beat this year based on their low roster turnover from 2015.
For the sixth game in a row, the Quakers started hot by scoring first. As has been the story in previous contests, the Red and Blue are quick to show up against certain opponents. The defense stepped up early and managed to hold a talented Cornell attack in check in the first half.
“We really came out to play today. Our defense played really well,” Corbett said. “Cornell has a very potent attack, a lot of people who can score, and who can move the ball well, and a lot of feeders. We knew we had to play very well defensively and I was really proud of the team today.”
By halftime, the game was still very much in hand for the No. 16 Big Red (11-4, 5-2 Ivy). The score was 4-3 in Penn’s favor and both teams were keeping pace with the other’s attack. Corbett mentions that a lot of Cornell’s offense in the first frame came from fouls; all three goals were scored from eight meters out on a foul.
“We knew it was going to be close,” Corbett said. “We were fouling them and giving them that opportunity to get on the board. I thought we did a much better job on that. We didn’t put them on the line that much in the second half.”
Corbett was not impressed with the team’s success on the draw control. Even though the 9-9 split does not imply an imbalance, she said that several draw controls resulted in turnovers and Penn was lagging in the time of possession metrics. That said, the Quakers still only conceded six goals to their hosts.
In most respects, aside from goals and time of possession, the two were just about evenly matched. Corbett recognizes that a performance like Saturday’s showed a lot of grit and she is very proud of her team.
“That was a lot of heart and a lot of fight and I thought we showed that today. We battled hard and came out on top.”
Penn will now prepare for the Ivy League tournament on Friday, with their first contest against Harvard. The Quakers played the Crimson (9-6, 4-3 Ivy) two weeks ago, coming out victorious, 8-7. That result, while positive, does not leave much room for error. Moreover, Corbett respects the abilities of the other Ivy programs and knows that it is do or die for the Quakers.
“There are very good coaches in the league and all of the coaches are analyzing how were they beat by us, what they need to change, what they need to do better” Corbett said. “We can’t just go in there with the same exact game plan. We’ve got to expect changes and gotta come out and be ready for everything.
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