If a close head-to-head record is a prerequisite to a rivalry, then the Penn women’s lacrosse team hasn’t had any Ancient Eight rivals during its 33-game league winning streak over the past five years.
But the No. 8 Quakers feel that Dartmouth has emerged as their rival over the past few years, which places added significance on tomorrow’s crucial matchup at Franklin Field.
“It’s definitely going to be a big battle,” senior attack Bridget Waclawik said. “They’ve kind of become a really huge rival for us in the Ivy League.”
No. 16 Dartmouth has given the Quakers some close calls, including a hard-fought 9-8 Penn win in last year’s Ivy Tournament championship and a 7-6 overtime win the year before.
The two teams once again sit among the nation’s top-10 scoring defenses, so another close outcome may be in the cards.
“I think in a lot of ways, they’re the favorite,” Penn coach Karin Brower Corbett said. “They’re very senior-heavy, so I think they have experience and leadership, and we have a brand-new team … They definitely have the seniority on us.”
The lone major difference from last year for Dartmouth is the graduation of star goalie Julie Wadland, which Corbett called a “big loss.”
But the Big Green replaced her with freshman Kristen Giovanniello, who leads Division I with a .541 save percentage and is fresh off an Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week award.
“We’ve played some incredible goalies this year, and we talk about … being especially mindful of your shots, and seeing the net before you shoot and faking the goalie,” Waclawik said.
Corbett said Dartmouth typically picks one member of the Penn attack to faceguard, and this year it will probably be junior Erin Brennan, who leads the Quakers with 24 goals and 10 assists.
After facing a Northwestern defense that thrives on constant pressure, Penn will have to adjust to a Dartmouth team that is more similar to the Quakers and thrives on a slower pace.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to settle down a little bit more and be able to run our motions,” Waclawik said. “It’s going to be a huge defensive battle.”
The Quakers have fallen into a pattern of getting behind early and alternating scoring spurts with long dry spells, so they will look for a more consistent 60-minute effort tomorrow.
“We’re just trying to start off strong … and not have to come back at halftime,” sophomore midfield Meredith Cain said. “We just have to limit our uncaused turnovers because we’re hurting ourselves on that.”
The coming week will go a long way in determining the regular season Ivy League champion, as Penn takes on its top competitors in Dartmouth and Princeton. The three teams sit in a tie atop the Ivy standings.
“I thought it would come down to this if we could pull off the win at Harvard,” Corbett said. “It’s a huge week, no question. We want to be the host for the Tournament, we want to win the Ivy League, and it goes through Dartmouth and Princeton.”