On Saturday, No.7 Penn women’s lacrosse ended one of its best seasons in program history with an 8-4 loss to unseeded Penn State. The defeat came in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I Championship, with in-state bragging rights and inclusion in the tournament’s Final Four on the line.
The disappointment of the four-goal loss was compounded by the fact that this year’s Final Four will be contested in Philadelphia, less than 30minutes from Penn’s campus.
The Red and Blue’s (15-5) offensive struggles against the Nittany Lions (14-6) represented a stark departure from Penn’s previous tournament matchups with Towson and Wagner. The Quakers’ attacking front was led, as expected, by departing senior and established lacrosse legend Nina Corcoran. She was her typically dominant self against the Seahawks and the Tigers, and she continued to set record after record along the path to the quarterfinals.
In the 17-7 drubbing of Wagner to open tournament play, Corcoran tallied a hat-trick and four assists to surpass Ali DeLuca’s single-season points record of 76. She also statistically cemented her status as the best passer Ivy League history, breaking the 33-year old mark for most career assists in Ancient Eight play, which was previously held by Harvard’s Maureen Finn.
Her remarkable vision was supplemented by the three-pronged attack of sophomore Alex Condon, who scored four goals, and fellow seniors Iris Williamson and Catherine Dickinson.
After the game, head coach Karin Corbett commented on Corcoran’s unrelenting and almost obsessive selflessness: “Alex has just been tremendous this year and [Condon and Corcoran] have a tremendous connection. But for Nina, it doesn’t matter, when she sees the stick she’s going to feed it. And her unselfishness and how much she wants this team to win is why we had the season that we’ve had.”
The 17-goal onslaught made a defensive effort almost unnecessary, as the Quakers scored the most goals out of any other team in the first round while recording a stratospheric 73.9 shooting percentage.
The second round saw the Red and Blue once again demonstrate the rhythmic, high-motion offense that netted them so many scores against Wagner. But the most prominent factor in the Quakers’ easy win over Towson was actually their lockdown defense, which held the host Tigers scoreless for over 30 minutes of action. Despite the absence of senior Brooke Kiley and two yellow cards that forced Condon out of the game, freshman Katy Junior and junior Megan Kelly were highly active, forcing turnovers and snagging ground balls throughout the contest. The result was another convincing victory for the Quakers, who prevailed by a final score of 12-4.
Unfortunately, the offensive momentum and defensive cohesion that had defined Penn’s tournament came to a crashing halt in Saturday’s game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions had just secured an impressive and thrilling overtime victory, defeating a No. 2 Florida Gators team that featured four newly minted All-Americans and Tewaaraton Award Finalist Nicole Graziano. Flush with confidence from their upset win, Penn State, led by captain Abby Smucker, shut down both Williamson and Condon, forced the Quakers to commit a season-high 18 turnovers and prevented Corcoran from recording a single point for the first time this season. Penn went 27 minutes without scoring while allowing the Nittany Lions to rattle off a 6-0 run that secured Penn State’s first victory over the Quakers since 2006.
With their defeat in the quarterfinals, the stellar careers of Corcoran, Dickinson, Kiley and Williamson come to an end, along with five other seniors. Penn, despite qualifying for the NCAA Championship ten consecutive times, have failed to move past the quarterfinal since 2009. But, while they exited with a whimper, the Quakers can count this season as one of the more successful in recent memory.
Corcoran, along with leading the NCAA in assists and breaking records throughout the year, was admitted into the final pool of 25 nominees for the Tewaaraton Award, the highest honor in collegiate lacrosse. Corcoran was also selected as a second-team All-American by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association and was joined by Condon, who was a third-team selection. And, in leading her team to their ninth Ivy League title in 10 years, Corbett was honored as the Ivy League Coach of the Year for the first time in her career.
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