Revenge is sweet, but a six straight Ivy titles is sweeter.
With the Penn women’s lacrosse team’s spot in the Ivy League Tournament still in jeopardy, the Quakers turned up the pressure and played their best game of the season, throttling Princeton, 13-8, at Class of 1952 Stadium on Wednesday night.
“I think it’s been something we’ve been stressing to them. What I said to them was, ‘You need to play your best when you’re best is needed.’ And we did,” coach Karin Brower Corbett said. “Tonight everything was on the line for us and I’m just so proud of them because they played 60 minutes.”
Heading into the game, Penn was tied with Dartmouth for first place in the Ivy League with a 5-1 record. However, Princeton, Harvard and Cornell all lurked behind in a tie for third with a 4-2 records.
Due to a convoluted tiebreak scenario that took into account goal differential of only the tied teams, it was conceivable the Quakers’ loss against the Tigers could drop them from the Ancient Eight’s top-four and force them to miss the annual end-of-the-year tournament.
But Penn wouldn’t entertain the possibility.
Led by seniors Erin Brennan and Emily Leitner, the Quakers used a three-goal run in the first half to defeat a Tigers squad that beat Penn twice last season.
Last year the Tigers ruined the Quakers’ march towards an undefeated league season when they defeated them in late April. The Red and Blue had a chance at revenge in the Ivy Tournament, but once more fell to the Tigers and were knocked out of the Ivy League Tournament.
“I think we just really needed this as a team, a huge win like this over a team that we lost to last year twice,” Penn midfielder Shannon Mangini said.
Penn played as if it remembered every minute of last year’s losses. The team harassed the Tigers all over the field and scored with ruthless efficiency.
The Quakers and Tigers traded goals in the early going, until the Tigers’ Jaci Gassaway scored on a great cross-crease feed from Barb Previ to put the hosts up 4-3 with 19:06 remaining in the first half.
Penn responded with three unanswered goals. First, a great defensive play by goalkeeper Emily Leitner caused a Princeton turnover and Courtney Tomchick finished on the other end. Then, Erin Brennan made a great move to get around likely All-American Lindsey deButts and scored with a left-handed side-winding shot.
“There game was a lot of around the crease stuff,” Leitner said. “So the more you could disrupt that, the better. They put a few by me, so I was like let’s throw them out of their game and don’t get a shot off.”
Another Leitner-caused turnover helped Penn regain possession and with 9:52 left in the period. During the same series, Shannon Mangini made a move to get by a defender and was simultaneously fouled while scoring. Although the initial goal was cancelled out by the foul, Mangini still managed to score on the resulting free position, putting Penn up 6-4.
It was more of the same in the second half as Penn held possession for long periods before converting each move to goal. The team’s patience and offensive efficiency — they turned the ball over only six times — paid off as the Quakers scored five goals including three by midfielder Meredith Cain to put the game away.
“It’s very relieving. I think it was very crazy that the tie-breaking they were going to use and we have to relook at it in the fall because it just wasn’t fair,” Corbett said. “I’m glad it didn’t come down to that because it’s not fair to the kids.”
The win marks a milestone achievement for the Penn women’s lacrosse program. The win guarantees the team at least a share of the Ivy title. The Quakers have now won six straight league championships, the longest streak for any program in the history of Penn. They can win the title outright if Dartmouth loses to Harvard on Friday.
“Obviously six in a row is a big accomplishment for a program especially one that has turned around from where they have been in the past and I attribute that to Karin and the people she’s brought in,” Poplawski said. “We all have the mentality to win.”
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