If this is what Penn women’s lacrosse looks like when it’s angry, watch out.
Facing live competition for the first time since being stunned in last year's NCAA Tournament, the Quakers looked ready for redemption against Delaware. Led by seven combined goals from senior Alex Condon and sophomore Gabby Rosenzweig, the Red and Blue overcame a sloppy start to finish on a 7-1 run, turning a close game into a comfortable 12-5 win.
“I think we played really well today. I know we have a lot of young players, but they performed great today,” said Condon, who led both teams with four goals. “Everyone played with confidence, we played great team defense and we executed on offense in the second half, so I think we played really well.”
Some initial sloppiness, whether due to rust or over-excitement, prevented No. 14 Penn (1-0) from breaking the game open early. Though the team’s offensive balance was on display, with four different Quakers finding the back of the net in the opening 30 minutes, the Red and Blue still found themselves plagued by 12 first-half turnovers.
“That first half, it was like we were shot out of a cannon, and we were like going in overdrive and just making mistakes,” coach Karin Corbett said. “We wanted to play fast, but we did not want to play rushed. There was a long stint of no goals, and that was just our own mistakes.”
But as the offense struggled to get going early on, it was the program’s biggest question mark entering the season that kept the Red and Blue in front the whole way.
With 2017 graduate Britt Brown no longer manning the goal, lacrosse pundits everywhere questioned whether the Quakers would be able to replicate her defensive impact. But time and time again, starter Maggie Smith wowed the Franklin Field crowd in the first half with several point-blank saves, allowing Penn to head into the break with a 5-2 lead.
Both Smith and sophomore Mikaila Cheeseman played a half in goal. And though Smith’s final stat line of six saves to two goals allowed was more impressive, both earned praise from players and coaches surrounding their ongoing competition.
“Obviously Britt left the bar high, but Mikaila and I have been working hard all fall, trying as hard as possible in as many reps as possible and definitely looking to follow in her footsteps,” Smith said. [Mikaila] is an incredible goalie, and we definitely feed off each other and we get better every single day.”
With almost all of Penn’s high-powered offense returning this season, it seemed like a matter of time before the Quakers would break through on that side of the ball. That time finally arrived early in the second half after Delaware had cut the lead to 5-4, when crisper ball movement led to quality shot after quality shot and turned the game into a blowout.
But just as noteworthy as how Red and Blue dominated the game was who allowed them to do it. And as impressive as Condon and Rosenzweig’s days were, perhaps the biggest story of the afternoon was the dominance of Penn’s freshman class, which proved to be more than ready for the big stage in its first test.
Freshman midfielder Abby Bosco scored the season’s first goal on an assist from fellow rookie Zoe Belodeau, and Belodeau and freshman Laura Crawford each pitched in with goals of their own later on. More impressively, Belodeau also displayed passing vision and smarts far beyond that of a typical freshman, leading both teams with three assists.
“Those are three freshmen who are making a big impact, no question. Zoe is kind of in charge of our attack as a freshman, calling the plays, and that’s not easy,” Corbett said. “The three of them are playing beyond a freshman level right now, and I’m really excited about that.”
This talented group of freshmen may prove to be the future of the program, but the focus is all about the present as Penn seeks its 11th conference title in 12 years. And if this crop of eventual stars can continue to mesh with the Quakers’ plethora of returning ones, Penn’s vengeance tour might have many more stops to go.