It may have gone somewhat unnoticed -- overshadowed by the men's basketball team's quick exit from the NCAAs, obscured by Brett Matter's national wrestling championship. But an important change took place in the program, and it is well worth noting. On Tuesday, the Penn women's lacrosse team won its second game of the season. In most years, this would not be big news. In most years, it would not deserve much attention. But in this particular season, it signifies something special -- a new beginning in the history of the team. For the first time since 1972, Anne Sage is not listed as the official head coach of the program. Former Princeton assistant Karin Brower has assumed that title, and with the change, her team has assumed a new outlook. Prior to last season, the Quakers petitioned the Athletic Department for Sage's removal. All 22 members of the squad signed the petition last February, refusing to play any games with Sage at the helm. They complained of the coach's frequent absences and unstructured practices. Going into the season, the players realized Sage had not prepared them at all. Sage was asked to take a leave of absence for the spring. Then-assistant coach Alanna Wren served in her place, and the Red and Blue stumbled to a 1-12 record, the worst in team history. Then, this summer, Brower replaced Sage as the official head coach. A new era had begun. Yes, much of the personnel is the same and the team has only won two games, but the 2000 Quakers are not the 1999 Quakers. And most of that can be attributed to Brower. While Sage did little to prepare her players for the spring in the past few years, Brower has been getting her team ready since the fall. The results can already be seen in the Quakers' early-season record. For the first time since before many of the current players ever stepped onto Franklin Field, Penn is above .500. On March 14, the Quakers traveled to Washington to take on American and left with a 17-8 win. A close loss to a tough Yale squad on the road followed, and then Penn recorded its second win by beating Villanova, 14-7, on Tuesday. They have not played a single home game yet, and the Quakers have doubled their win total from a year ago. Technically, two wins already makes this season more successful than last. But with this year's Quakers, much more is possible. That possibility for success is a result of the new attitude that was born when Brower took over the team. "I think everyone's really excited," Brower said yesterday. "I think they are gaining confidence every time they take the field, and it's totally different team." While last year's squad had the unneeded burden of worrying about the coaching situation, this year's team can focus solely on the action on the field. Tomorrow, Penn will be in Ithaca, N.Y., to play Cornell. Last year at Franklin Field, the Big Red jumped out to an early lead, and Penn never had much of a chance in a 14-6 loss. Tomorrow's game promises to be much more of a contest. The same could be said of every game the Red and Blue play for the rest of the season. No one at Penn should start planning an Ivy League championship party for the Quakers, but games like last year's 20-2 loss to Dartmouth or the 17-3 debacle against Princeton may be things of the past. "I'd like to see us be fourth in the league," Brower said when asked what would make this season a success. Tomorrow should indicate how far up the Ivy standings Penn can move this season. Brower calls Cornell a comparable team to the Red and Blue. A repeat of last season is unlikely, but the Quakers still know that every Ivy game will be a challenge. There are still things the Quakers need to improve upon, including pushing the ball in the attack and protecting it in the midfield. And although the six freshmen seeing significant time in the lineup are adjusting well to the college game, they still have much to learn. When the 2000 season comes to an end, however, Karin Brower's Quakers will be a far cry from the squad that ended last season. And the second chapter in Penn women's lacrosse history will be well on its way to success.Comments powered by Disqus
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