Turns out, they aren’t No. 1 for nothing.
Penn women’s lacrosse had the opportunity to make history in the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 against nationally top-ranked Stony Brook on Sunday afternoon, but an upset for the ages wasn’t meant to be. The undefeated, No. 5-seeded Sea Wolves scored the game’s first seven goals and didn’t slow down much from there on their home field, cruising to an 18-5 win to end the Red and Blue’s season.
“It’s been great [this season], and I’m really proud of my team for the body of work they did this season, and we played a great game on Friday night [in the first round against Penn State],” Penn coach Karin Corbett said. “Stony Brook is a fantastic team, and as I said before, they should have been a higher seed. I had never seen them live, and they are impressive.”
Fresh off Friday’s memorable double-OT win, No. 14 Penn (14-5, 6-1 Ivy) had some momentum going in, but momentum itself wouldn’t be nearly enough to top a juggernaut that implausibly includes both the NCAA Division I all-time leading goal scorer (senior Courtney Murphy) and the all-time leading assists and points-getter (senior Kylie Ohlmiller).
Quakers goalie Mikaila Cheeseman actually kept the game scoreless for the first four-plus minutes, but Ohlmiller connected on a filthy low-to-high shot with her left hand into the top right corner just under five minutes into the half — and from there, the floodgates were opened.
“They were really excited; I think winning a game in overtime is kind of the highest level of excitement there is,” Corbett said. “We were a little banged up, but it’s the tournament, so that’s what’s happening with everybody. You have to give Stony Brook a lot of credit; they’re a great team.”
The Seawolves (20-0, 7-0 America East), controversially seeded fifth in the bracket despite being a consensus No. 1 in the polls, came out hungry to prove their doubters wrong. Even with third-leading scorer Taryn Ohlmiller forced out early with an injury, Stony Brook jumped out to leads of 7-0 and 13-2 in the first half alone, before scoring the first five goals of the second half to add on to the onslaught.
For the afternoon, Murphy extended her hold on the record books with six goals and three assists, while Kylie Ohlmiller added five scores and two dimes. Cheeseman was only able to muster four saves, as the Seawolves were seemingly in possession of the ball from start to finish.
“I think their strength is their shooting; they’re very good shooters, and I think their stick skills are great. … We were open some on the inside, had to catch and finish, and we didn’t do that well today,” Corbett said. “Every turnover, they’re back challenging on the attack, and another person is putting the ball in the net. They have a lot of threats, and I think they’re gonna give a lot of people trouble in this tournament.”
So as the Quakers’ season came to an anticlimactic end, thus too did the careers of an elite senior class. Among the players who suited up in the Red and Blue for the last time were offensive stars Alex Condon, Emily Rogers-Healion, and Caroline Cummings, and Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year Natalie Stefan, a group that combined to earn three Ivy championships and nine individual All-Ivy berths.
But this year also represented a passing of the torch for the Red and Blue, as the next generation of stars arrived on the national scene a bit early. With two goals and an assist on Sunday, sophomore Gabby Rosenzweig tied 2016 graduate Nina Corcoran’s single-season record of 85 points, doing so in one less game. Additionally, freshman Zoe Belodeau scored twice with two assists herself, moving up to 80 points on the year for No. 3 all-time in school history.
Though Erin Barry was held scoreless against Stony Brook, her 51 goals on the season led the team, as the Quakers’ underclass “Big 3” combined for 145 of the team's school-record 261 goals on the season.
“She has tremendous vision; I’ve coached some great attackers, and I think she’s one of the best I’ve ever coached with the vision that she has, the competitiveness, and the ability to come up in big games,” the nineteenth-year coach said about Belodeau. “Whether it be on the draw or with goals, to have a freshman step up a lot for game-winning goals is incredible. She has a lot of room to grow, and I’m very excited for her career at Penn.”
As such, with such a talented group graduating, that coalition of young standouts will take even greater roles a year from now. After the Quakers won their 11th Ivy League title in 12 years and made the NCAA Tourney for the 12th consecutive season, Corbett’s dynasty has room to reach even greater heights — and it has the type of star power that can get it there.
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