Championship_Teams

Penn men's fencing and Penn women's lacrosse both overcome regular season losses to finish atop the Ivy League when it mattered most.

Photo: File Photo , Lizzy Machielse

The wire-to-wire domination that Penn women’s basketball displayed en route to its third conference title in four years was impressive, but that wasn’t the only Penn team to bring home Ivy League glory in 2017.

A pair of Penn programs continued the elite play they’ve shown in recent years, as both Penn men’s fencing and Penn women’s lacrosse took home shares of the Ivy League title. The pair of teams had eerily similar final results, each finishing in a three-way tie and each winning its conference for the second straight year, as men’s fencing took its 16th title in school history while women’s lacrosse took home its 12th-ever championship.

Coming off its 2016 Ivy League championship — a season in which the team briefly was ranked No. 1 nationally for the first time in school history — with Ivy League saber champion Shaul Gordon being the only major loss to graduation, expectations were high for Penn men’s fencing entering 2017, and the team cruised to wins in seven of its first eight matches of the year. 

In a highly anticipated regular season showdown with defending NCAA champion Columbia, Penn fell to the Lions, 15-12, relegating the Red and Blue to underdog status. But the Red and Blue would get another chance at payback with higher stakes, and they wouldn’t let it go to waste.

In the opening match of the round-robin style Ivy League Championships at the Palestra, Penn happened to come across none other than the then-No. 1 Lions — and this time, the Quakers pulled off the upset, topping the defending national champions by the same 15-12 score. 

Unfortunately, Penn went on to fall to Princeton in the final match of the Ivy Championships, and Columbia had beaten the Tigers earlier, forcing the three schools into a three-way tie for the conference title for the second straight year. For Penn, sophomore Justin Yoo and junior John Vaiani took first team All-Ivy honors. All three schools proceeded to qualify for the NCAA Championships, where Penn took eighth place to Columbia’s third and Princeton’s fourth.

While men’s fencing had relatively little roster turnover from 2016, Penn women’s lacrosse had to deal with the loss of three of its top four scorers, including program legend and 2016 Ivy League Attacker of the Year Nina Corcoran

But for a program that entered 2017 having won the conference in nine out of the past ten seasons, the message was clear: no matter who was leaving, this was a team that would be reloading, never rebuilding.

The path to a repeat title certainly didn’t come without adversity, though. In its Ivy League opener, Penn was upset by Cornell at home, 10-4, forcing the Quakers into win-or-go-home mode for the entire remainder of conference play. Making matters more difficult, a pair of opening day starters in junior defender Katie Cromie and junior attacker Caroline Cummings went down with season-ending injuries, forcing the Quakers into a series of games without playing a single substitute.

But all that mattered was Penn’s 12 women against the 12 women across from them — and more often than not, the Quakers’ were superior. Defining themselves as a defensive juggernaut behind star defenders Megan Kelly and second team All-American Katy Junior, not to mention the consistently elite play of senior goalie Britt Brown, Penn finished the regular season third in the country with a meager 7.73 goals allowed per game, while Brown led the nation in regular season save percentage at .562.

And on the opposite side of the ball, the Quakers didn’t exactly fall off. Junior Alex Condon earned her second straight All-America nod after leading Penn with 44 goals, senior Emily Rogers-Healion became the 24th player in school history with 100 career points, and freshmen Gabby Rosenzweig and Erin Barry respectively scored the highest and third-highest goal totals for any Penn rookies this decade.

Though the team clinched the Ivy League title with a comfortable 18-7 win over Yale, the top performance of the regular season was undoubtedly a showdown against rival Princeton. Led by eight goals from Condon, the Quakers gave the Tigers their only Ivy loss of the season in a 17-12 win, memorably allowing Penn to stay in championship contention.

Though Penn’s postseason didn’t go the way it planned by any means, falling in the opening rounds of both the Ivy League and NCAA tournaments, its 13-2 regular season concluded in the program's 10th conference title since 2007 — and with that, the continuation of the school’s top dynasty.

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