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Penn women's lacrosse defensive dominance recently has largely been due to the stellar season of senior goalie Britt Brown, but she'll be put to the test against a perennially strong Northwestern squad.

Credit: Alex Fisher , Alex Fisher

Sometimes you need a change of scenery. For Penn women’s lacrosse, the team will be trading the City of Brotherly Love for the Windy City to take on a strong Northwestern side this weekend.

The No. 11 Quakers will be coming in with serious momentum coming off an essential Ancient Eight win and having dropped only a single non-conference matchup to No. 1 Maryland in their last five contests. While at Brown this past weekend, the Red and Blue (7-2, 1-1 Ivy) managed to hold the Bears to only two goals.

Their success did not go unnoticed as the awards piled in, with junior Caroline Cummings racking up her second Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week award and sophomore Katy Junior snagging the defensive version. Both were very well deserved, as Cummings netted seven goals in just two games, putting her at 22 this season, and Junior recorded six caused turnovers in that time, bringing her to an Ivy-leading tally of 23.

However, there is still plenty of room for improvement, as there was some consensus that the Brown game was not truly up to par.

“We just didn’t play with a lot of speed or fight, which has kind of shown in our last couple of games, so we have to clean that all up for Northwestern,” coach Karin Corbett said. “We need to focus on simple catching and throwing, and decision-making for whether people are open. We need to play a lot crisper on the attack than we did [at Brown].”

Senior Britt Brown, who has established herself in the cage with 82 saves thus far, echoed that sentiment, giving insight into the preparation objectives for the team.

“It wasn’t necessarily one of our best games, but it’s always great to have our first Ivy League win under our belts,” she said. “Defensively it was great; only allowing two goals was a huge statement."

“We’re going to work on our transition game, and definitely do a lot of shooting this week,” she added. “Personally, I’m not worried, because we typically go out on the attacking front and really go after teams, and I have no doubt we will do something like that.”

In order to take down the Wildcats (5-5, 1-0 Big Ten), Penn will certainly have to be at the top of its game. No. 16 Northwestern has already picked off No. 12 Notre Dame, taken No. 8 USC into overtime and is still unbeaten at home. Perhaps the Wildcats’ mid-week contest with Johns Hopkins will give Penn a bit of an edge, but the Quakers are still thoroughly tested in their own right.

Discussing the keys to the pivotal game, with this being the last fixture before the full slate of Ivy League matches, Junior explained her team’s outlook.

“It comes down to focus. We go into every game with an idea of what the opposing players will try to do,” she said. “The preparation is key, and thankfully we have a full week to prepare for Northwestern. They are a really good team, so hopefully we can stay focused and come out as hard as we did today.”

If Penn can shut the door on defense like the Quakers did in keeping Brown to only seven shots on goal, the team should have more than a fair shot on Sunday. However, the black mark of eighteen turnovers in that last contest will need to get remedied by game time, as any mistake against the high-powered Northwestern offense could be costly.

With half of the season already in the rearview mirror, now is the time for Penn to make its mark and prove itself worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid.

“Looking into the latter end of the season, we have a lot of games in front of us,” Brown said. “Our overall goal is to win a national championship, and all these games and practices are preparing us for that.”

When taking to the road this weekend, the Quakers will have to get going in high gear, as this last tune-up match will take them right into the Ivy League title chase.