The Quakers will have to wait until tournament time for revenge.
No. 5 Penn women's lacrosse traveled westward to take on No. 9 Northwestern in its final nonconference matchup of the season. The Quakers ultimately lost for the second time this season, by a score of 17-13.
The Red and Blue (8-2, 2-0 Ivy) and the Wildcats (8-3, 2-0 Big Ten) had entirely different narratives heading into Sunday's matchup. Northwestern is the highest scoring offense in the nation, while Penn came into the weekend with the eighth fewest goals allowed per game and the third-best save percentage in the country.
Despite that defensive fortitude, the Wildcats scored the first four goals of the game on the way to a 6-1 lead. It was senior Selena Lasota who led Northwestern, but Penn stayed within striking distance with goals from freshman attackers Taylyn Stadler and Madison Jiranek. The Wildcats' hot start proved to be too much to overcome, as the Quakers were unable to outscore the high-octane Northwestern offense in the second half.
“They came out firing from the opening whistle, and we were very timid and back on our heels," coach Karin Corbett said. “We haven’t started real strong in the past couple of games, including against Maryland. We started very slowly today while [Northwestern] kept possession, attacked and scored a lot of goals, and we really got into a hole.
“The game was won in the first 10 minutes, and against a good team, you can't get into a hole like that."
“Their offense is a different style and it took a long time to get adjusted to. They love taking fast, hard, outside shots, and they're very much of a run-and-gun team," Sophomore attacker Zoe Belodeau said. “[That] caught us off guard and we weren't really able to recover."
The Quakers came out of halftime facing a six-goal deficit, but Northwestern started the half on a 3-1 run in the first nine minutes to stretch its lead to a game-high eight. The Quakers showed resiliency, though, scoring five unanswered goals — including two from junior attacker Gabby Rosenzweig to trim the Wildcats' lead to just three with 3:19 remaining.
“I was really proud of our second half run. Our cutting and feeding was working and we were scoring off that," Corbett said. "At halftime, we stressed that we had to keep the ball moving and attack aggressively. We also made a change on the draw that allowed us to get more possessions and stepped it up defensively."
Northwestern ended up hanging on in the final minutes, as freshman Lauren Gilbert put an exclamation point on a 17-13 Wildcat win. Last season in this matchup, the Wildcats prevailed in double overtime.
Stadler, Rosenzweig, and Belodeau led the way for the Quakers offensively, posting four, five, and six points, respectively, but their goals alone weren't enough to push the Red and Blue over the top.
“I just felt like I was getting good looks and did my best to set my teammates up well, but I feel like we struggled more defensively than we usually do as a [team]. And again, when you get into a hole against that good of a team, it's hard to dig yourself out of it," Belodeau said.
Throughout the game, the Quakers got quality looks at the goal but were unable to convert, while Northwestern capitalized on its shots on goal. In the first half, the Wildcats converted 13-of-16 shots on goal, while Penn converted just 7-of-11. The Red and Blue also struggled with turnovers, turning the ball over 19 times and forcing just 13 Wildcat turnovers.
Penn will look to bounce back next weekend when they travel to Providence, R.I. to face Brown. The Bears are 6-5 overall and have won two straight conference matchups after falling 15-11 to Dartmouth in their conference opener.
“A huge part of our season is still ahead of us, and we’ve got to play well in it. Brown beat Princeton last week, and they’re a good team," Corbett said.
The Quakers struggled to contain the Wildcats' offensive explosion, and their defense will be vital to their success as they finish up conference play in April.