After an uncharacteristically tough season last year for the women’s lacrosse team, the squad has come back with a new motto for the 2023 season: Penn pride.
Last season, the Red and Blue went 3-4 against Ivy League foes and had a 6-9 overall record. This losing season was surprising for the Quakers, given that under coach’s Karin Corbett tenure, the squad has reached 11 Ivy League championships in 16 years, with the most recent wins being in 2016, 2017, and 2018.
“We brought back a couple alums [in the offseason] who were in the Final Four runs from 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 teams to talk to this team about rebuilding a culture that they built,” Corbett said. “It's getting [the team] to understand the work that that takes, and how to get back there. I think they've been really receptive to that and they're really excited to hear the stories of the alums and how they did it. They're excited to step into that, and to really get us back to the top.”
These visits have transformed the team’s culture, according to senior defender Grace Fujinaga. This season is all about Penn pride for both her and her teammates.
“We've really gone back to Penn pride and [asked], what does Penn pride mean?” Fujinaga said. “We cheer it almost every day, and that's why our alumni have come back because it's a huge part of our culture. What each letter of pride means to Penn and our lacrosse team is unique, and it's why we all came to Penn.”
The biggest obstacles the squad faced last season was injuries. This season, however, many key players are back, giving the Quakers new strength in both the defensive and midfield position groups. Senior defender Izzy Rohr, who missed all of the 2022 season, is such a Quaker returning to the field this year.
Another returning player is senior midfielder Caitlin Cook. She hasn’t played for three years due to the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 seasons to COVID-19 and then an injury in the 2022 season. Given all the time spent on the sidelines, she said that she has learned a lot, but more importantly is excited and hungry to return to the field.
The squad was also fairly young last season, but Corbett believes last season has given many of her players the practice on the field they need to succeed this season. This year, there are eight seniors on the squad.
In terms of the squad’s strengths, Penn has a large and versatile group of strong midfielders that are able to speed up the game, in addition to a variety of players in the attacking position. To Corbett, each athlete has an individual style of play, and these different strengths will make the squad very difficult to defend.
“I think this team is really embodying Penn pride and the tradition that [Corbett] has created,” Fujinaga said. “We are so ready to start fighting our way through this amazing Ivy League. We're totally bought in and we're all ready to go, we're ready to start competing.”
The squad is looking forward to a tough schedule this season. Not only does the team hope to make a comeback and win an Ivy League championship, but they also hope to compete on the national level too. The squad is set to play both Florida and Johns Hopkins this season to get more national exposure.
“We always want to play a tough schedule,” Corbett said. “I think it makes us better for our league games, as well as preparing us for the tournament. So if [we] don't win the Ivy League, [we] have shown a body of work that can get you into that [national] tournament as well.”
The Quakers look ahead to their season opener against La Salle at Franklin Field on Feb. 18.