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After posting a phenomenal 15 saves in last week's win at St. Joseph's, sophomore goalie Reed Junkin will need to dominate yet again if Penn men's lacrosse is to upset No. 7 Virginia on Saturday.

Credit: Daniel Xu , Daniel Xu, Daniel Xu

I know what you’re thinking. It’s February. Lacrosse season has barely started. There’s no way the Penn men and women are playing meaningful games already.

Well, if I’m as good of a mind reader as I have claimed, then all of you would be wrong.

Both teams have totally ignored the concept of easing into the season. Instead, they’ve opted to battle two of the most distinguished programs in all of collegiate lacrosse right out of the gate. The women travel to Homewood Field to take on Johns Hopkins, while the men welcome Virginia to Franklin Field.

In a testament to the strength of both Penn programs, neither of these traditional lacrosse powerhouses should phase the Quakers though.

Penn women’s lacrosse (1-0) opened its season last weekend when it traveled to Delaware, beating the Blue Hens, 9-7. Junior Caroline Cummings led the way for the Red and Blue, registering a career-high five goals en route to Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors. Her efforts, as well as the play of senior goalie Britt Brown, have earned the Quakers significant national recognition, as they are currently ranked No. 12 in the Cascade Media Poll by Inside Lacrosse.

However, Penn won’t be the only ranked team in this weekend’s matchup, with No. 17 Johns Hopkins (2-0) sitting just behind the Quakers.

Still, for Penn coach Karin Corbett, these rankings aren’t necessarily suggestive of the lacrosse that’ll be played.

“For us, every game matters. So it’s not about what the rankings are,” she said. “It’s a preseason poll basically. I don’t put much stock in it. It’s more about how we compete each time. I want us to be better than we were last weekend and see how we can grow as a team.”

Team growth will be equally important on the men’s side, as Penn (1-0), ranked No. 17 by the USILA poll, welcomes the sixth-ranked team in the nation to Philadelphia.

Although the men’s opening game went more smoothly than the women’s, there remains room to improve for the Quakers, including, as coach Murphy highlighted, at the face-off “X,” where Penn only won eight of the 17 draws.

Despite a mediocre showing in that specific department, Penn was largely impressive in the 10-5 win over rival St. Joseph’s, avenging last year’s defeat to the Hawks behind three goals from sophomore attackman Alex Roesner and 15 saves from sophomore goalie Reed Junkin.

The Red and Blue will hope to follow a similar storyline this weekend against the Cavaliers, as last year’s matchup between the two teams resulted in a 15-10 Virginia win.

Coach Murphy, when reflecting on last year’s game, feels that his team didn’t play exceptionally well in any phase, but this is a new year, and he sees hope for improvement with this year’s team.

“We are a little bit more mature this year,” Murphy said. “We have three seniors starting at close defense and a returning starting goalie. We pretty much return everyone, so I hope that we’re a bit more composed this year.”

For both the men’s and women’s teams, composure will be vital when facing two of the giants of college lacrosse in the second weekend of the season, but, seeing that it is so early in the year, neither team is focused on how this weekend’s games could affect its overall team resumes.

In fact, when asked what a win over a highly-ranked Virginia team would do for his team, coach Murphy responded simply, “It would make us 2-0.”

Two weeks into the year, neither Penn team wants anything more than that.

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