In front of players of Quaker past, Penn women’s lacrosse proved that after 10 years, not much has changed.
It has been a decade since Penn ushered in a period of Ivy League dominance, a rise that began with a miraculous run in the 2007 NCAA Championship. That season’s squad, led by first-team All-Americans Hilary Renna and Sarah Waxman, piloted the Red and Blue to an undefeated Ivy season, a Final Four appearance on their home turf and earned Karin Corbett a National Coach of the Year distinction. Their astounding performance marked a distinct change in the program’s culture and recruitment ability, leading to Penn’s constant presence at the top of the conference standings after two decades of futility.
It was appropriate, therefore, that members of the same 2007 team that started it all were standing on the sidelines on Saturday, watching the heirs of their athletic fortune reap the benefits of their success.
Penn’s current team certainly delivered a display worthy of a particularly historic Alumni Day. The No. 12 Quakers beat No.16 Duke at Franklin Field by a score of 16-6. The ten goal deficit represents the largest margin of victory for Penn (6-1) so far in the 2017 campaign and is indicative of an offense that has ramped up significantly over the past month. Since their 10-4 loss against Cornell on March 4, the Quakers have recorded an average of 15.7 goals per game.
Against the Blue Devils (5-4), four players carried the entire load, as junior Caroline Cummings and senior Emily Rogers-Healion sent nine goals combined into the back of the net. Junior Natalie Stefan delivered four scores, all from free position shots, and senior Alex Condon, whose 3.17 goals per game average ranked 28th in the country entering Saturday, tallied a hat trick of her own. And, as is typical of a Condon box score, the senior added two assists to complement Rodgers-Healion’s three.
Such outright dominance was not expected against Duke, particularly after they grabbed a 4-2 lead in the middle of the first half. The tall, athletic Blue Devils were converting their transition opportunities and prevented Penn’s usually formidable defense from settling in place.
“We knew we had to limit them in fast-breaking,” Corbett said. “We had to do a good job of slowing the ball down which I think we did after the early goals. For the attack, we had a couple of nice early goals, but we weren’t on the same page. We weren’t running what we needed to run and we weren’t in the right spots. Once we called a timeout and went over that, they executed really well.”
After the coaching staff reprioritized its game plan, the Quakers hunkered down on both sides of the field. Penn’s defensive performance was particularly impressive and was spearheaded by the goalkeeping of senior Britt Brown. Brown tallied eleven saves, adding to her stellar 55.9% save percentage that ranks eighth in the country. Brown and her defensive compatriots shut down Duke for the majority of the second half, limiting the Blue Devils to just two goals and facilitating an explosive Penn offense. In doing so, the Quakers reinforced their status as one of the nation’s top defenses, which ranked eighth in goals entering Saturday.
Penn’s ability to overcome their initial sluggishness and to deal with less than ideal conditions may be owed to the presence of the 2007 alumni.
“They started the run for us,” Corbett said about the alumni. “They were able to come into the locker room and one of the captains from that team gave the pregame speech. It was just energized in [the locker room]. She talked them as she would have talked to that 2007 team and what it means to be on this team and what kind of family this is. I think that they got really inspired and I felt, kind of for the first time this year, that this team showed a lot of courage, a lot of fight. We’ve won some games this year, but in this game you could really feel some of the past.”
The Quakers will need to continue channeling the successes of old for their next matchup. They will travel to College Park on Wednesday to face No.1 Maryland in this season’s most difficult test.