That’s the margin of error for Penn women’s lacrosse as it now heads into the Ivy League home stretch.
This grueling test begins Saturday at Franklin Field, where the No. 9 Quakers (8-2, 1-1 Ivy) will host a Dartmouth team looking to spoil the party. For Penn, this contest, and the four to follow it, are must-wins for the side seeking a share of the Ancient Eight title as well as home-field advantage come the NCAA Tournament.
The Red and Blue will have plenty of momentum, coming in on the heels of some last-minute heroics to take down No. 16 Northwestern, a perennial powerhouse, in Evanston. With 17 minutes remaining, Penn managed to overcome a 7-5 deficit by netting five times, all while not yielding once to the Wildcats’ offense. Interestingly, each of the final five goals was contributed by a different player, with one even coming from the defensive unit.
Supporting the unrelenting Penn defense, sophomore Katy Junior is ready for this weekend’s battle.
“I think we go into every game with the same mentality, to allow as few shots as possible. These games matter more because they are for the Ivy League title and where the tournament will be hosted,” she said. “It’s really important that we come focused to practice. It’s easy at this point in the season, after playing 10 games, to be tired and let that get in the way of things, so we have to stay mentally sharp.”
The offense for the Big Green (5-4, 0-3) will be looking to test Junior and company, as it aims to secure a first Ivy League win. Despite a couple of subpar outcomes, the visitors cannot be overlooked, as they are still averaging 13 goals on 34 shots per game. Moreover, there will be some bitter memories for the Penn veterans, who will remember a disappointing 10-9 loss at Hannover last season.
Despite coming in with a head of steam, a major question mark for the Quakers this weekend surrounds the offensive production. The past two victories can mostly be attributed to unfaltering performances by the back line, holding the opponents to seven and two goals. On the season, the team is merely averaging 10.5 goals a game, with nearly that many saves per contest as well.
For coach Karin Corbett, this trend needs to be bucked immediately.
“I think we’ve had some games where we’ve been able to put more points on the board, but you need to score more than ten goals,” Corbett said. “It’s hard for a defense to continually keep a team under 10, and we’ve been able to do that, but we do need score more goals and generate more from our possessions. I want to see more of that this weekend.”
This week’s practice certainly was tailored to this objective, with an emphasis on shooting, free-position shots and individual skills. With a more consistent and polished offense, there’s no telling how far this squad can go.
With only conference matches remaining, Penn will essentially have to pick up a “W” every time it takes the field. Having already dropped a contest to Cornell, the Quakers cannot cede any more ground should they have a chance at a title and preferred tournament seed. It’s worth noting is that none of that the current Ivy League leaders, Cornell, Harvard and Princeton, have yet played each other, so the standings are sure to be shaken up.
For junior Caroline Cummings, the team is ready for the road ahead.
“We are going to take this momentum and run with it throughout the rest of the season because we have so many Ivy League games coming up,” Cummings said. “We’re just taking one game at a time, and taking nothing for granted. We need to put everything in for that one game, and just take it from there.”
With so much riding on every game from here on out, the Quakers will have to assert themselves at home this weekend to keep their dreams alive.