Seifter | Surviving the streak
March 22, 2011, 1:57 am · Updated March 22, 2011, 12:00 am·
Under coach Karin Brower Corbett’s leadership, the No. 4 Penn women’s lacrosse team has provided clear-cut evidence that the Ivy League athletic power structure isn’t always set in stone.
In 2000, Corbett inherited a one-win team and a Penn program that hadn’t had a winning Ivy season since 1988, hadn’t qualified for the NCAA tournament since 1984 and hadn’t won the Ivy League since 1982.
A little more than a decade later, Penn is on the brink of matching a record streak of conference dominance. With defeats of Harvard and Yale earlier this season, the Quakers have amassed 31 consecutive regular-season victories in the Ivy League, spanning more than five years.
Five Ancient Eight matchups remain this year, giving Penn a chance to match Harvard’s record 36-game Ivy winning streak from 1987-1993.
Penn’s current streak may be even more impressive than Harvard’s, considering the large national growth of lacrosse over the past 20 years. In addition, the Quakers’ streak does not include two victories in last year’s inaugural Ivy League Tournament.
But the question remains: which Ivy foe has the best chance of denying the Quakers a place in the record books? It might come down to that classic Ivy rivalry against Princeton, which would be win 35 on the streak.
Despite the potential poetic symmetry, it won’t be Harvard, which gave the Quakers all they could handle in Penn’s 9-8 victory earlier this season. It won’t be Yale, either, after Penn’s 7-2 victory over the Bulldogs three days ago.
Columbia has given Penn some scares in the past few years, but the Lions are already 0-2 in league play with a 1-4 overall record.
Cornell and Brown sit in the League’s middle tier and both squads are 1-1 in Ivy play with victories over Columbia. While the 5-2 Bears have a relatively weak strength of schedule, the 3-3 Big Red are coming off a double overtime win against No. 14 Notre Dame.
That leaves Penn’s top two contenders for the Ivy crown — Princeton and Dartmouth. The No. 15 Tigers and No. 18 Big Green are the only other Ivy League teams with top-20 national rankings.
Penn defeated both teams twice last year, including a narrow 9-8 victory over Dartmouth in the Ivy Tournament finals.
The Big Green were ranked as high as No. 7 last season while Princeton spent most of the year unranked. But the Tigers have been the more impressive team so far in 2011, with an RPI of 12 despite three losses to top-10 teams (Penn is No. 1 in RPI).
Considering Penn’s offensive inconsistency at times this season, combined with the Quakers’ typically strong defense, Princeton’s higher-octane attack might be more of a matchup problem.
Whereas Dartmouth has scored 10 goals just once this season, the Tigers have more than 10 goals per game against tough competition, including a 17-goal outburst against Brown.
Along with the added unpredictability of a Penn-Princeton rivalry game, the Tigers are also especially familiar with the Quakers’ style, as Corbett spent 1996-1998 as a top assistant under long-time Princeton coach Chris Sailer.
Penn has a favorable schedule this year, as it faces both Princeton and Dartmouth in the friendly confines of Franklin Field. On paper, Penn should be strongly favored in all its Ivy games this season.
But if you have to bet on an Ivy upset, Princeton has the best chance to upend Penn’s streak.
ARI SEIFTER is a senior computer and cognitive science major from Ellicott City, Md., and is former Associate Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be contacted at dpsports@theDP.com.