Two years ago, the Penn women’s lacrosse team dispatched Duke in overtime in the NCAA quarterfinals held at Drexel’s Vidas Field.
Due to a scheduling conflict with The Penn Relays at Franklin Field, the two teams will have a rematch on the same turf in the Quakers’ season finale Friday.
“As much as [the field] is technically away, I think we’ve played on Drexel’s field enough that it kind of is like another home field for us,” junior attack Erin Brennan said.
With a fifth-straight Ivy League championship already under its belt, Penn will have one more chance to make an impression in nonconference play against No. 4 Duke.
The No. 10 Quakers (10-4, 6-1 Ivy) had an early-season signature victory against No. 3 North Carolina but have dropped four games since, including matchups against No. 1 Maryland and then-No. 2 Northwestern.
“We have a tendency to play up to teams that are highly ranked, and [Duke] is a great team,” Penn coach Karin Brower Corbett said. “I hope that we can come out and play them hard, and it would be a huge win for us.”
The season finale presents the opportunity for Penn to improve its resume for the NCAA Tournament selection committee and prove that its victory over the Tar Heels was no fluke. A win over Duke would make the Quakers a “shoo-in” for the NCAA tournament, Corbett said.
After tomorrow, Penn will have squared off against four of the top five teams in the nation, which should amount to valuable experience heading into the Ivy League and NCAA tournaments.
“This season’s been pretty chaotic and really challenging,” Brennan said. “We’re using that as experience so that when we get into the tournament, people aren’t freaking out because we’ve never played these people, and they’re ranked really high.”
The Blue Devils (13-3, 4-1 ACC) are led on attack by senior Christie Kaestner — she’s fourth in the nation with 2.25 assists per game — and junior Emma Hamm, who has tallied a team-high 41 goals and 58 draw controls.
Playing in the high-octane Atlantic Coast Conference, Duke has a devastating attack that has outproduced Penn’s by over five goals per game. However much of that margin is made up by the Quakers’ fifth-ranked scoring defense.
After closing out the regular season, Penn will once again hold the No. 1 seed and play host to the Ivy Tournament next weekend.
The first-round matchup with Princeton — which broke Penn’s 34-game regular season Ivy winning streak — will provide the Quakers with a chance for revenge.
“We’ve got to shake off what happened,” Brennan said. “Obviously it wasn’t our best play by any standpoint … I think it’s really nice that we get to be on our field again and literally get to push ourselves back and fight and have that urgency that we clearly lacked.”