Having been on the brink of elimination from its tenth regular season conference championship in 11 years for more than a month, there’s been only one focus for Penn women’s lacrosse — staying alive.
And behind a tremendously balanced offensive effort featuring a combined nine goals from senior Emily Rogers-Healion and freshman Gabby Rosenzweig, the Red and Blue did just that yet again, using a game-ending 10-2 run to blow out Columbia 17-7 and remain one loss behind first-place Cornell.
“I was very pleased with it, I think we had a good day,” Penn coach Karin Corbett said. “I think that we attacked well late, we closed down defensively, and we took care of the ball a little bit better than we did in the first half.”
With the Lions (7-6, 2-3 Ivy) entering the showdown never having beaten Penn in Columbia’s 21 years of having a varsity program, history suggested Saturday afternoon might have been somewhat of walkover for the Quakers — but the Lions came to play early on.
Taking advantage of some early sloppy offensive play from Penn and working their own transition game to perfection behind senior attacker Taylor Quinn, the Lions jumped out to a surprising 3-2 lead ten minutes in.
“We know that they are getting better each year, and they have a lot of speed on their team, a lot of talented young players, and we knew that we’d have to play well today,” Corbett said of a Columbia squad that was 5-135 all-time in Ivy League play until this season. “We just made a couple of mental mistakes off the draw and they were wide open, they got the ball inside and we didn’t collapse well enough.”
But despite its early struggles, the firepower from No. 9 Penn (10-2, 3-1) would quickly prove to be too much for the upstart Lions. Even with a troubling ten first-half turnovers, three Quakers had multiple first-half goals, and as superstar goalie Britt Brown began to settle in after a tough beginning, Penn took back control en route to a 7-4 halftime edge.
Yet another transition goal right after a faceoff — Quinn’s 41st of the season — brought Columbia back to within two, but that would be as close as the Lions would get.
After both scoring two first-half goals, the tandem of Rosenzweig and Rogers-Healion would only heat up further in the closing minutes, with the freshman’s stellar outside shooting and the senior’s ability to penetrate proving too much for the overwhelmed Columbia side.
When all was said and done, Rogers-Healion had a career-high five goals, Rosenzweig had a career-high four, and the Quakers tied their season-high scoring output for the second straight week.
On the other side of the ball, Penn’s stellar defense came up big yet again down the stretch, limiting the Lions to 13 shots on goal compared to the Quakers’ 29, as the Red and Blue were able to turn what was a close game into a laugher.
“I was really excited at how Gabby played. ... I don’t think they had an answer for her today,” Corbett said. “And Emily had a career day, had some great plays attacking — she was great off the catch, and that makes it difficult when we have so many people that can get her the ball.”
As the Red and Blue continue to stay alive in the title race, the intensity will only keep building. Now having won three straight Ivy contests since being blown out by Cornell, the Quakers will get only four days off before hosting No. 7 Princeton (10-2, 4-0) in yet-another must-win to keep up with the Tigers and the No. 8 Big Red (10-2, 5-0).
“That Cornell game was a big turning point for us,” Corbett said. “We did not play very well and Cornell is a very good team, and you know, it was kind of a wake-up call us that we have to play better and we have to grow more each week, and I think that we’ve been able to do that.”
And though Penn still needs the Big Red to slip up at some point in its next two games in order to have a shot at conference glory, there’s no doubt Red and Blue will roll the mentality with what’s worked for the past month now — worrying about nothing but the 12 women across from them.
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