Despite the shining sun, relaxing beaches, and cool breeze, Penn women's lacrosse's weekend trip to Florida was less than favorable. In a top-25 matchup, No. 23 Penn (5-4, 2-0 Ivy) fell to No. 8 Florida (8-3), 17-13.
From the start, it felt like an uphill battle for Penn. The Gators boast one of the most potent offenses in the country and were fresh off a 20-goal game against Cincinnati. The team's roster includes three players on the Tewaaraton Watch List, including sophomore Emma LoPinto — high school teammate of Penn junior midfielder Maria Themelis. Both LoPinto and Themelis had strong showings on Saturday with each player scoring four goals apiece.
Also on Florida’s roster and the Tewaaraton Watch List is junior goalkeeper Sarah Reznick, one of the nation’s best goalies. Reznick did not make it easy for the Penn offense, which had been averaging 13.5 goals per game. The goalie finished with 11 saves and was huge in slowing down the Quaker offense. Penn tallied 35 shots — over Florida’s 33 — but Reznick’s All-American goalkeeping skills kept them from finding the back of the net.
But on the other side of the field, senior goalkeeper Kelly Van Hosen was not backing down either. Van Hosen matched Reznick in saves and made some of the most impressive stops of the game; she stopped a shot right in front of the crease after a transition play and even stopped four free-position shots in the first half alone.
“I thought she had one of her best outings and kept us in the game," coach Karin Corbett said. "We gave them a lot of opportunities to score, but I thought Kelly played great.”
On the offensive end, Penn struck first with a goal from sophomore midfielder Anna Brandt. But throughout the first quarter, Florida showed off its scoring capabilities, pulling away with a 3-0 scoring run. Despite senior attacker Niki Miles' best attempts to spark the Quaker offense, the Gators responded to her goal by burying one of their own in the final seconds of the first — bringing the score to 4-2.
It was a similar story in the second quarter. Despite Themelis and Miles finding the space to tie the score up 4-4, the Gators had a surge to end the second quarter, including two goals in the final minute of play to bring the score to 4-7. The momentum carried over to open the third quarter, and the four-goal deficit felt like a death sentence for the Red and Blue.
But the mantra of the Quakers all season has been "Penn Pride" — digging deep and not backing down in the face of adversity — and it came alive after halftime.
The third was back-and-forth, with the teams trading goals as Penn tried to cut into the deficit. Eventually, the Quakers found their groove and went on a 5-2 scoring run. Brandt notched in another two to give her a hat trick, and sophomore defender Natasha Gorriaran notched the first goal of her collegiate career.
Having evened the score at 10-10 heading into the final quarter of play, it seemed like Penn could pull off the upset and get its first victory over a top-10 opponent since 2017. But Florida proved why the team was bestowed its No. 8 ranking.
The Gators remained levelheaded amid the threat of an upset. The team knocked in three goals to make it 14-11 halfway through the fourth. Despite the Quakers giving them no room inside for an easy goal and forcing uncharacteristic turnovers from a usually polished offense, it was still not enough. Penn had no luck with the draw control. The Red and Blue were also hurt by their own turnovers and penalties, including two yellow cards in the fourth.
“Shooting, draws, and groundballs — those are the three main stat categories that we need to be better at,” Corbett said. "I just think that we should shoot better for sure."
Florida kept control of the game, quickly notching three more goals to effectively seal the game — despite Penn throwing in two of their own.
“I think that the team really played with a lot of fight and heart for sure, but we need to play for four quarters," Corbett said. "We did a similar thing against Maryland, and in the fourth quarter, we struggled. Against Harvard, we took over in the fourth quarter, but then we gave up four goals. We need to string together four quarters.”
It's a quick turnaround, but the team's next chance to string together four quarters of elite play will come against Lehigh on Tuesday, Apr. 4. Even with the loss, the tenacity and grit the Quakers displayed is another example of how they are taking Penn Pride to heart and are capable of going toe-to-toe with the best in the nation.