It may still be cold outside, but lacrosse season is about to heat up.
This Saturday, both Penn lacrosse teams will open their 2017 campaigns.
For the women, this will be first test of their No. 11 preseason ranking in this year’s ILWCA poll. As has been the case in the past three years, the Quakers will start off against Delaware, in what has been a notably close rivalry of late.
In the teams’ last meeting, Penn came out on top by the narrow margin of 12-10, but in the 2015 opener, the Blue Hens (1-0) grabbed one of their only two all-time wins over the Red and Blue.
“Delaware is a good team, and they wanted to play us, so we’ve gone that route,” coach Karin Corbett said.
There are two things that Corbett and her side will be paying special attention to when they travel down to Delaware on Saturday. In recent years, the Blue Hens have been known to play a zone defense, something that the Quakers do not come up against often.
The biggest shakeup, however, is arguably the visible 90-second possession clock that was introduced to NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse this season. This weekend will be Penn’s first encounter with the new regulation, which requires that the attacking team register a shot within the allotted time.
“We’re really excited for our first game,” senior goalkeeper Britt Brown said. “Everyone in the locker room can feel the energy.”
For the past ten years, the Quakers have cited the same season goals: to win the Ivy League and a national championship.
The former has been almost a routine for the Red and Blue, who have finished atop the Ancient Eight in nine of the past ten seasons, but as they look to break back into the country’s top ten, these non-conference games are just as important.
“It’s a tough game to begin with,” Corbett said. “But I think we need to play a tough schedule. We want to challenge ourselves, and I think that’s a game that we have to bring our best to."
The men will be presented with just as difficult of a challenge as coach Mike Murphy’s side heads to Saint Joseph’s (0-1) on Saturday.
In late April of last season, the Hawks beat the Quakers for the first time ever, bringing the rivalry to 12-1 all-time.
The 9-8 overtime thriller was the final game of the regular season before Penn fell to Yale in the Ivy League Tournament, something the Red and Blue are surely looking to avenge when they head to play their nearby rivals.
The season-opener will be a welcome one for honorable mention All-American Connor Keating and co-Ivy League Rookie of the Year winners Simon Mathias and Reed Junkin as they look to repeat their success from the last campaign.
For the men and women, these opening tests also come against teams that already have a game under their belts, leaving the Quakers at a disadvantage.
Regardless, the days to Saturday are winding down, and both Penn sides are eager to get their seasons underway. With such challenging openers, however, they’ll hope they don’t live to regret it.
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