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Sophomore midfielder Anna Brandt attempts a free shot on goal against Boston College in the second round of the NCAA Championship on May 14 (Photo courtesy of Kyle Gurganious).

NEWTON, Mass. — After a season that took Penn women’s lacrosse everywhere from Franklin Field to Florida, from the middle of the preseason pack to the top of the Ivy League, Newton, Mass. marks the end of the road.

That was the site of the Quakers’ matchup with Boston College in the second round of the NCAA Championship, where a 9-7 loss eliminated Penn from the postseason tournament. Despite an incredible push during the fourth quarter, the Eagles’ suffocating defense ultimately halted Penn’s comeback bid, bringing the Red and Blue’s remarkable campaign to a close.

The Quakers were held to their lowest point total of the season, scoring roughly half of their 13.7 PPG average. Though senior attacker Niki Miles and sophomore midfielder Anna Brandt scored two and three goals, respectively, the rest of the Quakers managed just two scores against a stout Eagles front. Though the result is undoubtedly a disappointment for the Red and Blue, who rode into the contest on a nine-game win streak, their season as whole remains a feat to be proud of.

“I’m so proud,” coach Karin Corbett said. “We weren’t even ranked in the [preseason] top 25, and to have a 9-7 game with the third team in the country, it’s huge.”

Boston College is one of the most prolific programs in women’s lacrosse. The team has made five straight NCAA title games, including a national championship victory in 2021. This season, the Eagles won the ACC and sent nine players to the USA Lacrosse Magazine All-American teams, the most of any in the nation. The neon-clad swathes of fans at Newton Lacrosse Field created an imposing home environment, one where the Eagles have now won 11 straight NCAA Championship games.

Boston College is a juggernaut, and although Penn is not satisfied with defeat, the team’s challenging of such a giant is an accomplishment in its own right.

The Eagles drew the game’s first blood with a nifty score from Belle Smith. After several huge saves from Penn senior goalkeeper Kelly Van Hoesen, including one off of free position for the Eagles, Brandt shimmied past the BC defense for a tying 1-1 score. It was the lone bright spot in an otherwise stagnant first quarter for the Quaker offense, which committed six turnovers and ended the period trailing 2-1.

“I think we were shooting really poorly in the first half,” Corbett said.

Over the second and third quarters, the Penn defense began a clinic of its own. On the back of senior defender Izzy Rohr and junior defender Aly Feely, Penn was able to slow the Eagle avalanche — eventually holding BC to its second-lowest point total of the season.

But the Eagles’ defense was even more sweltering. Time and time again the Quakers attacked the lane in search of scoring opportunities, and they were repeatedly turned away by BC’s stonewall defense. Penn managed just 15 shots on goal for the day, far below the team’s season average of 23.9, and entered the fourth quarter trailing 7-5 after a pair of Brandt goals kept the game close during the third.

“I didn’t feel like we were dodging early enough,” Corbett said. “But I think we made some better adjustments in the second half and were able to get to the goal.”

As the final quarter began, it would have been easy for the Quakers to take a bow. After such a successful season, against one of the best teams in the nation, the Red and Blue could have gone away quietly, succumbing to defeat in a game they were meant to lose. 

But that is not the type of team Penn is. It is not who they were during its epic overtime victory against Yale in the Ivy League championship game. It is not who the team was when it buried UConn in a third quarter avalanche to advance past the first round of the tournament. And it is not who they were today.

The Quakers gave the Eagles everything they could handle in the final period, culminating in a goal from Miles that cut the deficit to one with 6:58 to go. But after a titanic back-and-forth that included turnovers for both teams, a Brandt turnover gave way to the dagger goal from BC’s Cassidy Weeks.

It is not the outcome the Quakers envisioned, but after such a valiant effort, it is one difficult to view with anything but pride. The 2023 Penn women’s lacrosse team will go down as undefeated Ivy League champs, as a team that pushed a titan to the brink — but most importantly, as a group with an undeniable fighting spirit.

“I just can’t be more proud of how coachable they’ve been, how they’ve responded to us, how hard they work, how much they want it,” Corbett said. “They’ve accomplished so much this season, and I just can’t be more proud of them.”