How does a defending champion improve?
After winning last year's Ivy title, fans can expect more of the same from Penn women's lacrosse this season as the Red and Blue are returning more than 90 percent of total points scored on offense from last season, including their top six scorers from last season.
“It’s really nice having a lot of people come back who are comfortable with the attack and are confident to take the ball to the goal and score,” senior midfielder Alex Condon said. “We were able to pick up where we left off last year.”
This season has been highlighted by the excellent play from the veteran leaders on offense.
Condon, alongside attackers Caroline Cummings and Emily Rogers-Healion, is one of three seniors that has taken control of both the offense and the leadership of this team. The trio thus far has combined for 38 goals and 26 assists, accounting for about 37 percent of the Quakers total points this season. Additionally, this trio is currently taking about 44 percent of the teams shots.
However, the offensive firepower is not the only thing that these veteran players bring to the team.
“We’ve been in some tough situations so far this year in some tight games and I think the more veteran people on the field kept the vibe calm and composed,” Rogers-Healion said.
Beyond the seniors, the offense's top three scorers are all freshman and sophomores. Midfielder Erin Barry and attackers Gabby Rosenzweig and Zoe Belodeau have all played excellent very early in their careers. They currently have combined for 96 points on the season. Opponents of the Quakers only have a total of 87 points against the team, showing just how dominant this offense and these young stars are.
This offensive firepower has resulted in a very successful season so far. The Quakers are undefeated in the Ivy League and are currently ranked No. 6 in the nation. Penn’s only loss has come against No. 2 ranked and defending national champion Maryland just one week ago.
Another factor in the teams success thus far has been a change in their attack. Already possessing a top-ranked attacking unit in the country, the Quakers have decided to play a significant portion of their season with a fifth attacker, straying from their traditional four attacker game plan.
“It depends on what we need and what we think will help us,” coach Karin Corbett said. “Offensively, defensively, whatever [the opposing] team's strengths and weaknesses are.”
This combination of returning faces and great coaching strategies has placed Penn in a great position heading into the final third of the season.
“We’re all striving for the national championship. There is no doubt about that,” Cummings said. “We set that goal at the very beginning of the season and we’re all trying to remember that.”
The Red and Blue have their eyes fixed on their goal, and their next step on this journey will be this upcoming Sunday against Northwestern at Franklin Field.
Our take: Penn returns almost all of its scoring from a team that finished last season ranked seventh nationally, and even though losses like Britt Brown and Megan Kelly will be tough on the defensive end, this team undoubtedly looks better than it did a season ago. This offense has depth far above what it had last year, and Mikaila Cheeseman looks like a great heir to Brown thus far. Expecting Penn to take down juggernauts like Stony Brook and Maryland may be asking for too much, but with such a strong group of senior leaders, we see the Quakers making their first Final Four appearance since 2009.