The Penn women’s lacrosse team has suffered just one loss this season — a 15-6 defeat to North Carolina. And Wednesday, the Quakers will face the team that handed the No. 2 Tar Heels their lone loss.
Needless to say, when No. 8 Penn (4-1, 2-0 Ivy) takes the field to face No. 13 Georgetown, the stakes will be high.
“We had a tough loss against UNC. We didn’t really like the way we played,” senior attack and co-captain Erin Brennan said. “So I think now it’s the time to prove that we can handle Georgetown and teams like that.”
The Hoyas are coming off a 9-8 win over North Carolina. Georgetown held the Tar Heels, who average 14.8 goals per game, to just eight due in large part to a different defensive strategy.
While Georgetown (3-3) normally plays a high-pressure defense, it found success in executing a backer style of defense in its most recent victory. In a backer style, defenses clog the center of the arc, forcing offenses to see the open attacker and make quick ball movements.
“I think they played high pressure in every game but UNC, and it’s whether they feel that that defense was better because they kept one of the highest scoring offenses to only eight goals,” coach Karin Brower Corbett said.
“Will they respect us enough to not high pressure? Or will they also think that defense is actually better? We don’t know what they’ll do with us,” Corbett added. “That was the first time we saw them play a not high pressure and they were very successful, so I don’t know. But we’re expecting all of it.”
With their varied defensive schemes, the Hoyas are ranked fourth in the nation in forcing turnovers, and as a result have been averaging 17.5 ground balls per game. The Quakers, by comparison, have averaged just 13.2.
“I think that their trap is really good. It’s very aggressive and they don’t give you time to bring the ball up and they’re really trying to cause a lot of turnovers,” Corbett said. “So we really have to take care of the ball and we can’t be sloppy. We can’t get checked from behind and we didn’t do that well against Yale.”
Penn will have to pay special attention to taking care of the ball. Waiting in the middle of the field will be Georgetown’s junior midfield Sophia Thomas, who has recorded 10 caused turnovers, 10 ground balls and five draw controls this season. The Quakers have been successful off the draw, however, with juniors Maddie Poplawski and Meredith Cain, totaling a combined 40 draw controls.
On the other side of the field, the Quakers will have to contend with junior attack Dina Jackson, who has netted 12 goals this season. According to Corbett, the Quakers have analyzed the Hoyas’ individual tendencies in order to be prepared for Georgetown’s “well-balanced” attack.
“There are definitely threats all over the field and we just need to play solid team defense, everyone really ready to help on the drives and stuff,” Brennan said. “And then especially on attack, I think just playing our game and handling the pressure.”