No halftime lead is ever safe. Penn women's lacrosse learned this the hard way.
No. 9 Penn women's lacrosse hosted Dartmouth in its fourth Ivy League matchup of the season, but the Quakers were ultimately handed their third overall loss and first of Ivy play in a 15-11 defeat on Senior Day.
The Quakers (9-3, 3-1 Ivy) came into the weekend undefeated in Ivy League play, winning three of their last four games. The Big Green (8-4, 4-1), on the other hand, were just a week removed from a loss to No. 16 Princeton, a loss that snapped a six-game win streak.
Dartmouth fielded the 10th best scoring offense, averaging 15.45 goals per game, while Penn allowed just 8.91 goals per game — the 12th lowest mark in the nation. Facing a strong offensive team — as they did against now No. 6 Northwestern and No. 2 Maryland, the Quakers couldn't defend Dartmouth's strong offensive attack.
Freshman attacker Taylyn Stadler opened up scoring for the Red and Blue off an assist from junior attacker Gabby Rosenzweig, and Penn scored again on a goal from sophomore attacker Laura Crawford, but the Big Green pulled even on two goals from junior midfielder Sophia Turchetta.
With the score knotted, the Quakers went on a 4-1 run with goals from sophomore midfielder Elyse Decker, junior midfielder Erin Barry, Rosenzweig, and freshman midfielder Michaela McMahon. Senior attacker Kierra Sweeney put one in for the Big Green with under three minutes left in the half, but the Quakers maintained a 6-4 lead through the half.
"I think our defense was getting more stops, but we had a lot of opportunities on attack that we didn't finish, and we were shooting at the goalie's feet a lot, and that was predictable," coach Karin Corbett said.
In the second half, Dartmouth caught fire. After Stadler buried a shot in the bottom of the net to open second-half scoring, the Big Green scored four unanswered goals to take their first lead of the game at 8-7. Rosenzweig tied the game once more, but the Big Green kept their foot on the pedal, scoring four more unanswered goals off of four draw-controls to take a 12-8 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
"I think that their fundamentals were better than ours today — their catching, their throwing, their finishing, " Corbett said. "I thought they shot a lot better than we did, especially since we were 1-for-8 on free-position shots, and that's not good at all. They finished their opportunities and we didn't."
Penn closed the gap to just three with 4:18 remaining, but they couldn't muster any more offense as Dartmouth ran time off the clock to hold on for a victory at Franklin Field.
"We needed to work their zone defense more, and we didn't, and even when we did have wide-open shots, we dropped passes or just shot at the goalie," Corbett said. "We took low-angle shots, which isn't good in a zone because you want to spread the ball around."
The Quakers performed well on the draw facing a Dartmouth team ranked No. 5 in draw-control percentage, and they also had more shots than the Big Green, but converting opportunities was a problem for the Red and Blue down the stretch.
"We did a great job on the draw, and going 14-14 on the draw is really great against this type of team, but we threw three of those draws out of bounds and didn't keep possession," Corbett said. "We just need to work on basic fundamentals, and our attack needs to challenge the defense a little more."
The Red and Blue will travel to Princeton, N.J. next week to face the Tigers, who have five wins against ranked opponents this season. The Tigers topped Dartmouth 14-12 last week, and Corbett noted Princeton has been successful especially on the offensive side of the ball this season.
"Princeton is a great team, and I think they have a lot of threats that will be tough for our defense," Corbett said. "The bottom line is that our attack has to drive to the cage hard against their man-to-man defense and shoot better so that we're not giving away saves."