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Credit: Alex Fisher , Alex Fisher

It’s on to the next one. That’s the mentality for Penn women’s lacrosse as it prepares to take on Columbia this weekend in New York.

Saturday’s afternoon battle represents another hurdle for the No. 10 Quakers (9-2, 2-1 Ivy) in their quest to secure a piece of the Ancient Eight title. Now in the final stretch of the season, the remaining conference games are essentially all must-wins, and the Lions (7-5, 2-2) won’t be making that easy.

Luckily, Penn will head north with confidence running high after dispatching Dartmouth by a score of 17-6 this past weekend at Franklin Field. This decisive victory featured the hosts putting seven different names on the score sheet, doubling the visitor’s shot tally, and forcing 16 turnovers. The box score included a more diverse list of names than usual, with 21 Quakers finding themselves minutes during the contest.

“What was so great about this past weekend was that we got everybody in. We have a lot of kids on this team that don’t have that opportunity to get into a game,” Penn coach Karin Corbett said. “It’s a long season, and they work hard and prepare us every day, so to have that opportunity to take control of a game and get them in is always a goal of the coaching staff. It makes them feel like they are even more of a part of the team because they were on the field for that win.”

Another important factor going into this matchup is the strength of the Penn defense, which has kept opposing teams to single digits on the scoreboard in each of the past three outings. Moreover, on average, the Red and Blue have been locking down the crease, conceding only 7.27 goals per game in all competitions.

Senior defender Megan Kelly feels that her crew will only improve on that stat going forward.

“We’re working together to strengthen our zone the best it can be. And in games and practices, we’re working out the kinks as we go along,” Kelly said.

This weekend’s hosts will likely test that assertion, as Columbia is looking to build upon its latest Ivy victory over Yale last Saturday, a 15-14 shootout. Right now, the Lions sit right behind the Quakers in the standings at fifth place and fourth place, respectively, so this contest means a tremendous amount to both sides. Having also crushed Dartmouth by netting 17 times, there’s no question this Columbia team has the skill to ruffle some feathers of heavyweight teams.

Noting their recent triumphs, Corbett is keenly aware of the Lions’ ability and is prepping her team accordingly.

“They are a good team and we have to prepare for them just as we would prepare for any other on our schedule,” she said. “They are the best Columbia team we’ve seen in a long time. They have two wins already in the league, so we have to come to play.”

Assuming the Penn defense is no-nonsense as per usual, the question remains about the productivity of the offense. Despite last week’s goal extravaganza, this team has struggled of late to consistently find the back of the net.

Discussing the mentality shift after the Dartmouth win, Kelly explained, “We have some really great attackers and midfielders, so everyone can score. It’s just about helping each other on the attack and supporting the unit.”

This weekend is particularly crucial for Penn, seeing as the league leaders Cornell, Princeton, and Harvard will face bottom-feeders Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown, respectively. While anything is possible, it’s quite unlikely that they will cede any ground to Penn from these contests, placing added pressure on the Quakers.

With a good chunk of the season in the rearview mirror, Kelly and company are looking ahead to tournament season with high hopes.

“We’ve been talking about it since the beginning of the season. The goal is a national championship, so we need to play our best every game,” Kelly said. “It’s not enough just to get by with a win.”

Once again, the Quakers will have something to prove when they take the field in Morningside Heights, with the weight of a title chase hanging over them.