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Freshman midfielder Michaela McMahon scored two goals in the Quakers' 11-10 victory over Cornell on Saturday.

Credit: Son Nguyen

While seasons are long and every game holds some importance, there are certain games that hold a more special place in players’ hearts — a game that is circled on the calendar before the year even starts.

For Penn women’s lacrosse, this Sunday’s contest in Evanston, Ill. against No. 9 Northwestern is one that the team has been looking forward to for an entire year. Penn (8-1, 2-0 Ivy) lost to the Wildcats (6-3, 1-0 Big Ten) in overtime last year, so in addition to a yearly rivalry, this is also a redemption game for the Quakers.

“Last year, we did come up short after 60 minutes of a hard fought game,” sophomore attacker Zoe Belodeau said. “I think that this is going to motivate us this week to work even harder and push ourselves to get a win this year.”

Even for the players who weren’t on the team for last year’s overtime loss, there is still a sense of the magnitude of this game.

“There has always been a lot of hype around this game,” freshman midfielder Michaela McMahon said. “It has become a little bit of a rivalry and from what I’ve heard, it is always a really high intensity game. My team loves beating Northwestern.”

While this is always a high stakes rivalry, the Quakers see a difference between this year’s team and last year’s team that they hope to use to their advantage against top programs like Northwestern.

“We’re younger and that is something people have used against us, but I think it is sometimes to our advantage,” junior goalie Mikaila Cheeseman said. “We have some freshmen who have been thrown in, and they’re so new to it that they are going out there and just having fun.”

“On top of that, the upperclassmen like myself have that extra experience to tell these freshmen that we need them,” Cheeseman said. “They have done a great job not playing like freshmen.”

Even after their lone defeat this season, these Quakers have shown the ability to bounce back and not dwell too much on the past.

“After that loss against Maryland, we thought we fought really hard, but also there were little things we could tweak and get better at,” McMahon said. “We just look forward to going out there and be able to prove ourselves against another top-10 team."

The Quakers have shown that they are one of the best teams in the nation, and they have the opportunity to prove that against another high-level team this weekend.

Following Sunday's matchup at Northwestern, Penn will have five consecutive Ivy League competitions to round out the season.