One year removed from a third-place finish in the Ivy League and a 13th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, Penn women’s lacrosse enters the 2020 season with high expectations.
The Quakers begin the year ranked No. 8 in the Nike/US Lacrosse Division I poll, and much of their talent from last season returns to the field for 2020.
At attack, the Red and Blue will once again be led by Gabby Rosenzweig, the senior standout who is well on her way to becoming a Penn lacrosse legend. As a junior, Rosenzweig earned a unanimous First-Team All-Ivy selection, setting the program’s single-season points record with 98. Entering her senior year, she needs just 13 more career points to become the all-time leading scorer in Penn history.
Although coach Karin Corbett knew that she was getting a great player when she brought Rosenzweig to Penn four years ago, the eventuality of her becoming Penn’s leading scorer was not at all evident. In high school, Rosenzweig played midfield, but the Penn coaches felt that the attack unit needed to be bolstered, so they moved the freshman to a completely new position. From there, she worked and worked, improving every game to become the attacker she is today.
“The kid just wants to be good, so she reps and reps and reps,” Corbett said. “She’s obviously very talented, but it’s through work. Everything that she has done comes from her working her butt off to be the best player that she can be.”
Rosenzweig’s ability to dictate the action from behind the cage is second-to-none in the conference, as she oscillates between attacking the goal herself and feeding to cutters in front of the net.
One of those cutters will be junior Zoe Belodeau, the team’s leading goalscorer last season with 42. In two seasons with the Quakers, Belodeau has tallied a remarkable 137 points, giving Penn one of the best attack duos in the nation.
Fleshing out the unit are sophomore Taylyn Stadler, junior Laura Crawford, and freshmen Niki Miles, Kennon Moon, and Chloe Hunter. In her first season, Stadler scored 32 points and started every contest, demonstrating ample ability to translate her game to the collegiate level. As a sophomore, Crawford, working primarily as an off-ball cutter, started nine games and poured in 13 goals.
Miles, Moon, and Hunter are parts of a freshman class that Corbett said is “tremendous.” Corbett said Miles is a “born leader” who uses her game sense and vision to “run things when she’s out there.” When talking about Moon, Corbett praised her ability to catch anything thrown to her, saying that she has a “magic wand of a stick.” In regard to Hunter, Corbett noted that her future lies in the midfield but that her rocket shot and extreme skill demand that she see time on attack as well.
With all of this talent, Rosenzweig said she is excited about the limitless and versatile potential of the attack unit heading into this season.
“We’re super deep at attack this year,” Rosenzweig said. “We have a ton of kids that can step right in. If someone’s not having their best day, there’s always somebody willing to step up and be ready. So that’s really great and something that’s a key part of our offense this year.”
Driving the action from the midfield will be senior Erin Barry. The 2019 Ivy League Midfielder of the Year and unanimous first team All-Ivy honoree scored 37 goals, scooped up 35 ground balls, and won 36 draw controls last season. Her constant motion and full-field presence are integral to the team’s identity.
“She never takes a play off. Never. A lot of people who play us see her heart and determination and never-give-up attitude, and they comment to me on that,” Corbett said. “She’s so important to everything we do on all parts of the field.”
Just as is the case with the attack, the Red and Blue midfield is stocked with talent. Flanking Barry are juniors Elyse Decker and Abby Bosco, sophomore Michaela McMahon, and freshman Caitlin Cook. Decker finished sixth on the team with 21 goals last season, while Bosco scored 13 times, led the team with 54 ground balls, and caused 22 turnovers.
Like Stadler at attack, McMahon adjusted to the college game quickly, scoring 22 times in her first season for the Quakers. This past summer, she won the world title as a member of the United States U-19 Women's Team. According to Barry, she has taken a staggering jump from last year to now and will be a vital piece of Penn’s success this season and for years to come. When describing Cook’s game, Corbett points to her work ethic and ability to improve every single practice.
On the defensive end, Penn enters the season without standouts Katy Junior and Lauren O’Mara, both of whom graduated last year. In their stead, senior Chelsea Kibler will assume an even larger role. Last season, she was a second team All-Ivy selection, pacing the Quakers with 68 draw controls and 23 caused turnovers.
In addition to Kibler’s “cerebral” leadership and ability to “run the show with the other draw kids,” Corbett points to defensive depth as a way to combat the graduations of Junior and O’Mara. Freshman Izzy Rohr will be one of several players contributing defensively this year, as according to Corbett, a “rotation of five defenders” might be in play this year for the first time since she started coaching here.
Returning in goal is Mikaila Cheeseman. The senior stopper was a second team All-Ivy honoree last season, saving a career-best 46% of all shots that she faced. Her consistent play and leadership trigger what should again be among the top defenses in the country this year.
With Cheeseman between the pipes and the three captains, Kibler, Barry, and Rosenzweig, at defense, midfield, and attack respectively, the Quakers have senior stars at every position, and each of those stars will be integral to Penn’s Ivy title aspirations.
“It’s great to be able to split the three captains up and have a leader at every position. But it’s not just the captains; our entire senior class has been phenomenal,” Rosenzweig said. “I’m really proud and excited to see how well we’ve led as a group.”
For that leadership to translate to an Ivy title, Penn will have to topple arch-rival Princeton, a team that is 5-1 against the Quakers in the past three seasons. The Tigers, as the No. 6 team in the country, enter the year teeming with talent. Joining Princeton as a threat in the Ivy League is Dartmouth. The Big Green finished a surprising 6-1 in conference play last season and will be looking to build upon that success in 2020.
Overall, the Ivy League is perhaps as strong as it has ever been, a fact that serves as a source of pride for the Quakers rather than as a source of anxiety.
“It’s really important that the Ivy League gets all the credit that it does,” Barry said. “It hasn’t in the past, but I think last year, people started to realize how good this conference is. It’s getting more competitive overall.”
Considering the talent on this year’s Penn team, the Quakers will be more than ready for the competition.