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Penn freshman Katie Spofford scored two goals in the win over Harvard. Her second tally, which came slightly over a minute into the second half, broke a 3-3 halftime tie. [Caroline New/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

For the first time in 18 years, the Penn women's lacrosse team got a chance to avenge its 18-1 loss to Delaware in the first round of the 1984 NCAA tournament.

The Quakers (5-4, 2-2 Ivy League) capitalized on their long-awaited opportunity, coming from behind in the second half last Friday to defeat the Blue Hens (2-8, 1-4 Colonial Athletic Association), 8-7, at Rullo Stadium in Newark, Del.

The Red and Blue followed up that win with an 8-6 victory over Harvard (4-5, 0-4 Ivy) last Sunday on Franklin Field and extended their winning streak to a season-high three games.

"It's definitely nice to get some wins and be back on track with a winning record," Penn senior attacker Jen Hartman said. "Earlier in the season, we were focusing too much on what other teams were doing. In the past three games, it's just been about us playing our game and up to our potential."

A big part of Penn's game is being aggressive when going after loose balls. The Quakers had struggled in this respect during the first half of the season, but were able to turn it around last Friday.

"We definitely picked up our hustle against Harvard and Delaware," Penn junior attacker Kate Murray said. "Our coach has been emphasizing that going after groundballs and draws are an important part of every game."

The Quakers heeded Penn coach Karin Brower's request, gathering 28 groundballs -- twice as many as Delaware's 14.

"I definitely think we're getting better at going after the groundballs and draws," Brower said. "We still need to work on it a little bit by doing a lot of drills with groundballs."

Penn also played without the added pressure of being ranked. The Quakers fell out of the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association top-20 poll after a loss to Temple on Mar. 20 at Franklin Field.

"I think we did feel pressure being ranked," Hartman said. "Our team is comfortable in the underdog role, and I think the possibility of pulling off the upset motivates us. Of course, we definitely want to be back in the top 20, but I think the pressure was definitely off [last weekend]."

Perhaps, that was one of the reasons that Penn responded exceptional well in both games to the usually nerve-racking situation of holding a small lead or being behind by a few goals late in the second half.

"I really think this team is great at playing in tight games and playing under pressure," Hartman said. "We're getting a little bit used to it. Being in close games and coming out on top in the end is a testament to our heart. We just really wanted it more than the other teams."

Brower agreed with the remarks of one of her top scorers this season.

"I think they did a nice job of finishing strong," the third-year coach said. "We were behind the entire game [against Delaware]. It shows that we don't give up, which is great. It's also giving us confidence, so that when we're behind, we know we can still put it together. Now we need to try and put two halves together consistently."

Also playing a big factor in the Delaware victory was Penn freshman goalkeeper Liz Lorelli. A walk-on who had never played goalie before, Lorelli came up with five big saves in 22 minutes of relief.

"We were having a little bit of trouble in the net, especially with eight-meter shots," Brower said. "We put her in and she did a great job, coming up big with some key saves."

The most memorable of these stops came with just a few minutes remaining in the game and the score tied at seven.

"There were two girls on her, and she sidearmed the ball out," Brower said. "That ended up stopping the winning goal. I don't know how she feels about playing goalie, but she's really helped us out when we didn't have a backup."

Against Harvard, goaltending and defense were once big factors in a close, low-scoring game.

"Defensively, we had a nice game on Sunday," Brower said. "But we kind of hurt ourselves. Our defense would come up with big plays, and then they would turn the ball over as they were coming out. We really need to think about controlling the ball and controlling the tempo of the game."

The Quakers will have one more contest to fine-tune these aspects of their play before facing perennial Ancient Eight powerhouses Dartmouth and Princeton.

However, Penn isn't concerned with the Big Green and the Tigers just yet, as it first has to deal with Rutgers tomorrow at 7 p.m. in a CN8-televised contest.

"Right now we're just taking every game as it comes," Hartman said. "To everyone, the biggest game of the year is the next game. We've really been thinking about that and not taking anyone lightly. I think it's worked out for us so far."

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