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Though Penn women's lacrosse's defense was largely the story on Saturday, four more goals from junior Caroline Cummings also played a huge role in the 7-2 victory at Brown.

Credit: Alex Fisher

The first win is always the hardest. For Penn women’s lacrosse, securing its first victory in the Ancient Eight on Saturday over Brown means it is ready for the title chase.

The Quakers (7-2, 1-1 Ivy) took down the Bears (3-5, 0-3) 7-2 in Providence thanks to a stellar defensive effort, limiting the hosts to merely seven shots on goal and allowing their lowest scoring output from an opponent since 2015.

Opening the scoring was senior Emily Rogers-Healion, giving Penn a lead that quickly faded with a score from Brown before Penn put the game to bed in the second half. Standouts from the game were junior Caroline Cummings, who netted four times to put Brown out of reach, and sophomore Katy Junior, whose seven ground balls marks the team’s best since 2014.

“It wasn’t our best game; I thought the defense played well, with some good individual plays, but our attack struggled a little bit. But we pulled off the win,” she said. “The intensity wasn’t quite there, and we didn’t shoot very well and also had a lot of turnovers on the attacking side of the ball.”

Corbett can shake her head at the 18 Penn turnovers, although her defense causing 23 certainly levels the playing field. What’s interesting is that although they created nearly three times as many shots in the second half as in the first, the Quakers lit up the scoreboard four times in the second half and only three in the first. The overall offensive production definitely faltered, however, when compared to the team’s recent wins with 14, 16, and even 17 goals.

On the defensive side, Junior led the pack contributing to the team’s ground ball tally of 27 and pitching in four forced turnovers. Aiding her in that effort was senior Megan Kelly, whose five ground balls and two turnovers helped limit senior Britt Brown’s work in the cage to five stops.

“I think we just came out really ready to play on defense, and we’re really comfortable in the zone that we play,” Junior said. “Everyone was pressuring the ball, so when it did hit the ground I had the opportunity to come up with it.”

In the past, the defense has been bailed out by the offense building up a steady lead, but Junior explained how the close fought battles are more exhilarating.

“Honestly, I think it makes it more exciting and fun to contest opponents,” she said. “It gets nerve-racking, but we have a lot of faith in our attack, so it’s not too stressful. Brown came out hard, but we were ready for what they were gonna do and ready to cover each other on mistakes.”

Having dropped the Ivy League opener to Cornell at home 10-4 a few weeks back, this win puts the Red and Blue back on track. A slate of hard-fought non-conference games yielded encouraging results, and consequently their national ranking has been bumped back up to No. 11.

On how this impacts the team’s objective, Corbett put it simply: “There’s no question we want to win out in the Ivies, and we needed this win today.”

Junior echoed her coach’s sentiment, adding that she appreciated the challenge of a fairly arduous non-Ivy slate of matches.

“We’re lucky that we get to play such a hard out-of-conference schedule and the competitive Ivy League. The Ivies make it more hype because we are playing for that title but we go into every game the same,” Junior said. “The Ivy games matter more for NCAA Tournament berths, but it’s still a one-game-at-a-time mentality.”

Penn will have some time off before traveling to Chicago to face No. 14 Northwestern, which the Quakers will certainly use to get the kinks out of their play.

“We’re glad we have a week, because we need to learn to play cleaner and put the ball as the number one priority, and just do the easy things,” Corbett said.

Having now taken one step closer to a tournament berth and perhaps league title, Penn will need to sustain the flashes of brilliance it has displayed for the long haul ahead.