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Emma Spiro (20) evades a NU player and brings the play into the NU half. That is where the ball remained throughout the second half. NU's offense was limited to few chances. The Quakers went on to win 11-7, and in the process, smashed the Wildcats 36 game unbeaten run with this historic win at Franklin Field. In a thriller game with two great teams, the Quakers emerged victorious. Coming back from 2 down at the break to win 11-7. In a dominating second half performance, the Quakers defense kept the #1 Wildcats scoreless. Credit: Alvin Loke

For the seventh time in four seasons, Penn will take on women’s lacrosse powerhouse Northwestern.

But after a 13-12 double overtime loss in last year’s NCAA Championship Semifinal, tonight’s match is even more personal for No. 6 Penn.

The Quakers now have a chance to exact some revenge against the top-ranked, five-time defending NCAA champion Wildcats squad (9-0) tonight at Franklin Field.

Penn (9-2) is just 1-7 all-time against the Wildcats and has been knocked out of the NCAA tournament by them for the last three years.

The Quakers’ lone victory against Northwestern came the last time the teams met at Franklin Field on April 27, 2008.

The Red and Blue ended a 36-game Northwestern winning streak that day with an 11-7 victory after shutting out the Wildcats in the second half. It was the Wildcats’ most recent defeat: they have since gone 38-0.

While the Quakers aren’t specifically using the experience of that victory as a rallying point — only three starters from that game are still on the squad — “it shows that they’re beatable every year,” Penn senior Emma Spiro said.

“We know how to beat them. I think that’s clear,” coach Karin Brower Corbett added.

Last year’s Northwestern senior class was one of the program’s most decorated. National champions for each one of their four years, the group was led by Hilary Bowen, a two-time NCAA Championship MVP, Hannah Nielsen, the all-time NCAA assist leader and goalkeeper Morgan Lathrop, the program’s leader in saves, who finished with an 83-3 record.

But the Wildcats haven’t missed a beat in 2010. According to Corbett, they still have four threats who can score, including sophomore attack Shannon Smith, who leads the team with 44 points.

Though the Wildcats have allowed more goals per game this season than they did last year (8.00 versus 6.83), Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller has been pleased with sophomore goalkeeper Brianne LoManto.

“She’s been a real pleasant surprise for us,” Amonte Hiller said. “She’s come out and played big in big games. She’s been our most consistent player.”

Regardless of the changes in personnel, Northwestern has maintained its high-pressure defense that Corbett and Spiro both said is different from what most teams play. The Wildcats are sixth in Division I with 11.67 caused turnovers per game.

In the Quakers’ two matches this year against ranked opponents, careless play and a lack of execution led to losses to No. 2 Maryland, 12-6, and No. 3 North Carolina, 11-6.

So with Northwestern’s aggressive defense, it is crucial for Penn to earn possessions off the draw and make the most of them.

“You can’t play a top team and struggle at the draws and the fundamentals,” Corbett said. “We’ve got to have the ball more.”

The Quakers were able to win the draw battles in 2008, earning 11 to the Wildcats’ seven.

Yet, it remains to be seen if Penn can avoid careless mistakes and execute just as well tonight as it did in the last victory over Northwestern.

“It always hinges on the draw and playing clean,” Corbett said. “If we can do that then we can win. It’s just can we get the draws and can we play clean.”

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