For some of the more veteran players on Penn women’s lacrosse, the three-game road stretch to open this season will feel like déjà vu. This is because the 2017 team faced the same opponents in the same order, all on the road. The competition over this stretch consists of Delaware, Johns Hopkins, and finally Rutgers.
When a team has to wait until two weeks into the season to step on its home turf, it is important to ask — how do they prepare?
“I’ve never really thought about the road and the non-road; I think it’s the course of the season,” coach Karin Corbett said. “I think it’s more of just each game, we have to prepare for each game.”
“I think it’s always a learning curve [preparing for travel] especially with the underclassmen, as they are responsible for equipment and making sure we have everything we need when we travel,” senior captain and defender Katy Junior said.
However, the system for planning and organizing road trips runs deeper than checking off inventory and supplies for the team members.
“We have committees within our team that help to delegate responsibility when we are traveling. … They kind of let us seniors and us captains take controls of those things,” Junior said. “We have a travel committee, locker room committee, hype squad, and there’s a committee for birthdays which is fun.”
Corbett added to Junior’s points, stating the importance of her athletes “owning their own thing.”
“They’re part of this team, and also it gives kids roles that they may not get on the field; which I think it's all-important that everyone is valued on this team.”
Preparation for the road is one thing, but execution is another. A home team’s crowd can often disrupt the opposing team’s flow, and some crowds are especially effective at doing that.
“Fans played a heavy role [last season] in how the game was going, but I think having three away games is super helpful because then you feel that’s kind of more of the norm where you don’t get in the comfort of being in the same stadium with your own fans and your student body around you,” Junior said.
Looking ahead to the games themselves, the No. 12 Quakers started the road stretch with a decisive 15-4 win over Delaware. Penn has played the Blue Hens (1-1) every year since 2014, and the Red and Blue have won every matchup in that time frame with a resounding 68-41 total margin of victory.
Penn's next challenge is No. 14 Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays (2-0) are coming off big victories of their own, defeating Drexel and No. 9 Loyola (Md.) to start the season. Penn has beaten Johns Hopkins in each of the teams' last two contests. Both of these games were tightly contested, and last season's comeback win for the Quakers came in dramatic fashion. This year, the Blue Jays have a stout offense. The group, led by sophomore midfielder Shelby Harrison and senior midfielder Ellie McNulty, has scored 30 goals in its first pair of games.
“Their offensive coach, Steele Stanwick, has done a really nice job with them. They just have a lot of different options on their attack, so you have to watch them play and see what their tendencies are,” Corbett said.
However, the Quakers have a solid defense of their own that has risen to No. 3 in the country after allowing just four goals in the season opener. Junior was fifth in the Ivy League in ground balls and sixth in caused turnovers last season, while fellow senior captain and defender Lauren O’Mara was fourth on the team in ground balls.
Starting the season with three straight road games is no easy task, but the Red and Blue are looking to prove that this challenge won't phase them.