Tory Bensen didn’t have much time to reflect on her first-ever goal for the Penn women’s lacrosse team.
Just over a minute later, the freshman midfield weaved through the left side of the defense, cranked another shot to the back of the net and launched into a celebratory 360 and fist pump.
Bensen’s back-to-back scores gave the No. 8 Quakers a commanding 10-6 lead over No. 3 North Carolina with six minutes to go.
Seeking revenge for an 11-6 upset in Chapel Hill, N.C. last year, Penn held on to beat the Tar Heels, 10-7, on Saturday afternoon at Franklin Field.
“It’s a great feeling,” Bensen said of her first career goals that put the stamp on Penn’s victory. “But it was really a team effort out there today. It was really exciting.
Junior goalkeeper Emily Leitner was the anchor of that team effort. A former high school teammate of Bensen, Leitner put together a career day with nine saves on 16 shots on goal.
In the first half, after the Tar Heels (3-2) jumped in front early, Leitner singlehandedly kept the Quakers (2-0) in the game with six big saves, seemingly all of the spectacular variety.
“Emily Leitner really stepped up for us in net. She had some huge saves for us,” Penn coach Karin Brower-Corbett said. “It was wonderful to see her have a game like that.”
Leitner, who is also a Daily Pennsylvanian videographer, made perhaps her most clutch contributions in the final minutes. With Penn clinging to a 7-5 lead and 11:36 remaining, she was staring down an eight-meter opportunity by the Tar Heels’ most dangerous weapon, Corey Donohoe, who already had two of her three goals in the game.
Leitner’s quick stick-work helped her make a save and repeat the trick on another free position about a minute later, protecting Penn’s 8-5 lead.
“You’re playing good ‘D’ and you make a couple mistakes and when your goalie can come up with saves like that, it just gives you that hope,” Corbett said, “like, ‘OK, we’re still in it, we’re still in it.’”
As Bensen noted, and Corbett agreed, it took a total team effort for the Quakers to upset the Tar Heels, and they got key contributions throughout the lineup. Sophomore attack Caroline Bunting scored twice, expanding her team-leading goal total to five after just two games. Fellow sophomore Meredith Cain added two of her own, while senior co-captain Giulia Giordano scored once and picked up three ground balls.
Corbett singled out two more important freshman contributors besides Bensen. Midfield Lydia Miller was tasked with containing Donohoe, who’s hat trick might have been much worse for the Quakers without Miller’s stingy ‘D.’ The other freshman starter besides Miller, midfield Lindsey Smith held another potent Tar Heels weapon, junior Laura Zimmerman, to zero shots in the second half.
Those freshmen might have made the critical difference between this year’s team and the one that couldn’t stop Carolina last year.
After the upset, Penn is sure to rise in the national rankings and put a bit of fear in the hearts of recent rivals Maryland and Northwestern, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country, respectively, who the Quakers face later this season.
By then, if Corbett has her way, Bensen could be playing an even bigger role.
“We really saw a change in her this week, playing with confidence and just doing what she can do, because she’s a terrific athlete,” Corbett said. “We really wanted her to have a big game today and she did, and I think that confidence is what she needed to propel her for the rest of the season.”Comments powered by Disqus
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