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Senior attacker Niki Miles attempts a shot on goal while being blocked by La Salle defenders at Franklin Field on Feb. 18. Credit: Samantha Turner

The Quakers are off to a hot start this season, picking up their second win in the Ancient Eight after a high-scoring win against Harvard, 16-13.

Penn women's lacrosse (4-2, 2-0 Ivy) came into the contest looking to continue their momentum in the conference, while the Crimson (2-5, 0-2 Ivy) looked to bounce back after an opening conference loss to Brown. 

It was a game defined by momentum, with each team having several multigoal scoring runs. Penn took the opening momentum in a near-perfect first possession; 39 seconds in, sophomore midfielder Anna Brandt scored off a low shot. Then senior attacker Kennon Moon scored a goal off a free-position opportunity to make Penn's lead 2-0.

The first quarter finished with Harvard going on its own small run, scoring two goals to tie the game back up. Brandt cut their momentum, though, scoring once again in front of the cage to put Penn up, 3-2, after the first quarter.

But the Crimson wave continued in the second quarter. After a slow start, they found their rhythm and scored three consecutive goals to put Harvard ahead, 5-3. The Quakers’ offense stalled in the period, with huge defensive pressure keeping them from putting the ball in the net and causing turnovers that turned into Crimson goals. The Quakers also failed to convert an opportunity off a yellow card against Harvard’s Shea Jenkins, which gave them a free-position shot. 

"I think throughout the games there's a lot of mistakes both ways, so our team's really been focused on a next-play mentality, so not dwelling on the past and focusing on what we can do next [is important]," senior attacker Niki Miles said. 

Down two with only a handful of minutes left in the first half, it seemed like Penn would have to make up for the deficit after the break.

But Penn turned the momentum back to their side. After sophomore attacker Erika Chung scored Penn’s first goal of the quarter, it forced a Harvard turnover. Penn did not let the transition go to waste; racing down to Harvard territory with seconds left on the clock, junior midfielder Maria Themelis scored to tie up the game before halftime. 

"I think coming out of last week, the third quarter was really important to us and thinking about it one quarter at a time, so just treating it as a new game out of halftime was really important," Miles said.

After Penn rode the momentum to get the opening goal of the second half, Harvard went on a crucial three-goal run. Notably, Harvard’s Caroline Mullahey batted the ball away from Penn in transition and took it all the way to score. Everything was going Harvard’s way, as the team capitalized on the Quakers' mistakes and were up by two just over five minutes into the second half. 

And then Miles broke free.

After a quiet first half, the team captain was able to find openings again and again. She scored four goals in the third quarter, the last of which came in the final seconds after Harvard made the mistake of leaving her open.

Brandt also added the huge Quaker run in the second half. She scored one more in the third to give herself a hat trick – her second of the year. She got on the board again early in the fourth, launching one into the net after being knocked to the ground following pressure from the Crimson.

"This team believes they can fight and [doesn't] want to get in too deep a hole, so calling timeouts and getting everyone to relax and stick to the game plan [was important]," coach Karin Corbett said.

With the Penn offense on fire and a burnt-out Harvard making costly mistakes and failing to win the draw, Harvard had to work to prevent Penn's lead from getting out of hand. 

Their efforts at the beginning of the fourth quarter were futile, with Penn scoring four straight at the start to give it a commanding 10-1 run during the second half.

A key to this offensive run was the Quakers' ability to maintain control off the draws. They won the draws 24-9 throughout the afternoon.

"I think the thing that kept us in was the draws," Corbett said. "During our run, we were getting the ball off the draw and get it back and score and get it back. And I think the team did great winning a lot of different draws."

While Harvard attempted a comeback with a 4-0 scoring run in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to three, it was too little, too late. Penn remained steadfast and kept their defensive pressure up to end the game 16-13.

But the game was not perfect and was littered with turnovers that kept Harvard in it even late into the fourth. 

"We've got to take care of the ball a little bit better than we did today. We had 18 turnovers … so we've got to value the ball a little better than we did today," Corbett said. 

The team will compete again on Mar. 22 against non-conference opponent Maryland at home.