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Leading 7-2 in the second half, the Penn women’s lacrosse team seemed in control against Dartmouth and well on its way to winning the first-ever Ivy League Tournament championship on Sunday at Franklin Field.

But the No. 10 Big Green refused to let the Quakers run away with the game, and thanks to a number of draw controls and a pair of goals from junior Kat Collins, Dartmouth found itself tied with Penn with just under 18 minutes to play.

Yet No. 5 Penn refused to cough up the lead. Senior Megan Smith ended the bleeding just a minute later, and freshman Maddie Poplawski added an insurance goal. Penn held on 9-8 to win the tournament and clinch its fourth consecutive automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Quakers (14-3, 9-0 Ivy) will now wait until May 9 to receive their first-round draw for the NCAAs.

The key to the highly contested game was the draw controls. In the first half, Penn used a 6-2 advantage in that category to claim a 5-2 lead. But after the half, Dartmouth (11-4, 6-3) had six draws to Penn’s five, including a run of five out of seven that led to the Big Green’s comeback.

“We felt really confident on our attack when we had the ball and that kind of sparked our charge to come back,” Dartmouth coach Amy Patton said. “It all came back to getting ball possession down there and that started with the draw.”

That confidence sparked a second-half comeback that seemed improbable at halftime. Penn earned 15 shots in the first period to the Big Green’s two, and if it wasn’t for seven saves by Dartmouth senior goalkeeper Julie Wadland — a first team all-Ivy selection who was named the goalkeeper of the All-Tournament team — Penn might have ended the game before halftime.

“I’d actually rather see more shots as weird as that sounds being a goalie because when you aren’t seeing as many shots it’s just a little harder mentally to stay in it,” Wadland said. “But I was just trying to do my job and watch the ball. … Our defense may have come out a little nervous, but I knew we’d step it up at some point.”

Though Dartmouth did clamp down in the second half, allowing just four goals and none in a 10-minute span, the damage had already been done. Toward the end of the second stanza, Penn started to get the draw back again, setting up the final go-ahead goal by Smith. Sophomore attack Erin Brennan picked up the draw and eventually earned a free position shot. But instead of shooting, she dished to Smith, who expertly put a bounce shot right past Wadland.

“When Dartmouth did start to come back, we were very composed,” senior midfield Ali DeLuca said. “We knew that we couldn’t panic at that time. Even when Dartmouth was firing away, we knew we couldn’t get down on ourselves and just had to keep playing.”

Spiro earned the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award. Combined with her one goal game on Friday against Princeton, she finished with four goals on nine shots, four groundballs and six draw controls. DeLuca — who only had two assists Sunday after four goals and four assists Friday — also received All-Tournament honors.

Though those two seniors — as well as three other Penn players — made the All-Tournament team, Penn’s starting goalkeeper senior Emily Szelest did not. She was pulled in the second half for sophomore Emily Leitner after giving up five goals while saving just one shot.

According to Corbett, she made the decision because Leitner had done well defending free position shots in practice this past week, and Penn was giving Dartmouth too many eight-meter shots.

“She knew it was a possibility,” Corbett said of Leitner entering the game. “They always have to be ready to go in.”

Sunday’s win will give the Quakers some momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament in two weeks. That’s a stark contrast from last year, when the Quakers were upset in the final weekend of the regular season by Stanford.

“It was really nice to be able to fight in a game like that,” Corbett said. “It’s a great thing to be ahead, then have them come back and tie it and then be able to go ahead and hold on to it. All of those are teaching moments. … So now hopefully when we get into that situation in the tournament, we are prepared.”

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