At this point, there’s only one word for Penn women’s lacrosse: dynasty.
Needing a win in their final regular season game to clinch a share of the Ivy League title, the Quakers took care of business on their Senior Day, crushing Yale, 18-7, to finish 6-1 in Ivy League play. As a result, Penn finishes the year in a three-way tie atop the league standings with Princeton and Cornell, giving the Red and Blue their tenth Ivy regular season title in the past eleven years.
“They’re here to win, they want to win on their last day at home, so it came down to winning a championship on your Senior Day, and there’s a lot of emotion,” Penn coach Karin Corbett said. “But the bottom line is you gotta get the job done. We knew that coming into today that a lot was on the line, and we wanted to get that championship for our seniors.”
Though Penn was heavily favored over sixth-place Yale (7-9, 1-6 Ivy), the Bulldogs came out ready to play spoiler, dominating time of possession early and holding a 3-2 lead midway through the first half.
But it wouldn’t be long before the No. 8 Quakers (13-2, 6-1) started to take care of business — and though the afternoon as a whole belonged to honoring the team’s seniors, the game’s turnaround itself was all about the rookies.
Freshman sensations Erin Barry and Gabby Rosenzweig began to put the Red and Blue on their backs late in the first half, turning a close game into a blowout with a combination of timely slashing and outside shooting. Penn ended the first half on a 7-0 run over the final 15 minutes, taking a 9-3 lead into the break behind a hat trick from Barry and four first-half points from Rosenzweig.
“I think there were a lot of emotions being that it was senior day, we were just excited to be out there and forgot about the fundamentals that we do really well, and that’s the ball quickly and taking good shots,” senior attacker Emily Rogers-Healion said. “Once we remembered that, we got back into our groove.”
Though Yale never legitimately threatened the rest of the way, the second half brought some special highlights as the Red and Blue sought to honor their Class of 2017.
As Yale began to pick up frustration fouls, Penn got ample opportunities to convert from the free position, and Rogers-Healion took full advantage with three second-half goals — the last of which marked her 100th career point in a Penn uniform, making her the 24th player in school history to hit the century mark.
“It was really amazing,” she said. “I had no idea it was going to happen, and it completely took me by surprise, but it was really special.”
And after another fantastic game including seven saves on eleven shots on goal — allowing her to finish the regular season with a nation-leading 0.562 save percentage — senior goalie Britt Brown was able to exit early to a standing ovation.
Only minutes later, All-American senior defender Megan Kelly was able to score the second goal of her Penn career — her first ever on Franklin Field — as all six seniors started and saw thorough playing time.
“Yeah, it was great to honor them,” Corbett said. “To be able to have a commanding lead, to get people on the field, is really, really important.”
As impressive as Penn’s decade-long streak of dominance has been, this year might have given the team its greatest challenges of any of the title runs. After falling to Cornell in early March, the Red and Blue stood at 0-1 in Ivy play, needing not only to run the table but also get help from elsewhere in order to have a chance at conference glory.
Making matters even more difficult, then-leading scorer Caroline Cummings went down with an ACL tear early against Princeton, providing yet another potential obstacle.
But with all margin of error having been completely gone for nearly two months, the Red and Blue never focused on anything but the task in front of them, pulling off the epic turnaround with confidence that never wavered a bit.
“We knew the kind of team were,” Kelly said. “We knew we didn’t handle Cornell correctly. We aren’t the same team any more, so I think we’ve taken that as a building experience and turned it around.”
Of course, even with the league trophy sealed, there’s far more business to handle. Via goal differential in head-to-head games with Cornell and Princeton, the Quakers will be seeded No. 2 in the Ivy League tournament, heading up to Ithaca for a first-round matchup against third-seeded Princeton next Friday.
Regardless of what happens there, the Red and Blue will be locks for the NCAA Tournament beginning the following weekend, where Penn will seek its first Final Four appearance since 2009.
“Karin just said it best,” Kelly said on the team’s goals. “One championship down, two more to go.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.