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Senior defender Izzy Rohr cradles the ball against Michigan's Kaylee Dyer on March 16.

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

In a battle of undefeated teams, it was inevitable that one squad’s perfect record would perish. Unfortunately for Penn women’s lacrosse, its pristine slate is no more.

On Saturday, No. 15 Penn women’s lacrosse (6-1, 1-0 Ivy) fell to No. 6 Michigan (10-0) by a final score of 6-5. The marquee matchup, which featured two of the top teams in the country, lived up to the billing. With back-and-forth action throughout, the match was capped off with a thrilling finish, when the Wolverines scored in the waning seconds to earn the victory.

The Quakers entered the day undefeated, but the non-conference date against the Wolverines proved to be their most difficult matchup of the season. To start the game, Michigan attacker Kaylee Dyer opened the scoring with an unassisted goal, putting the Wolverines up 1-0. The Red and Blue would respond at the end of the first quarter with an unassisted goal by junior midfielder Anna Brandt. With the score tied at just 1-1, it was clear that a low-scoring game was in the books. Indeed, a defensive battle was going to foretell the story of the game.

“I think defensively we played phenomenally well. We limited their shots to 14. That’s fabulous,” said coach Karin Corbett.

Despite stingy defense, the Quakers were ultimately doomed by their offense, which struggled mightily to put things together. During the second quarter, with the Wolverines up by a score of 2-1, senior attacker Niki Miles scored to knot the score once more at 2-2.

“I think that our attack struggled. We had 28 shots, and they have a really good goalie, but we weren’t finishing and taking a lot of the looks we had hoped,” Corbett said. “We had a great game on the draw, we had a great game on the clear. I just think offensively we had a little bit of a rough day.”

Coming out of halftime, the Wolverines started off hot. Michigan midfielder Ava Class and attacker Jill Smith both scored to put Michigan ahead 4-2, which was its largest lead of the game. With every score, the Wolverines looked to put away the Red and Blue for good. However, the Quakers always answered back. In the subsequent minutes, Miles scored her second goal of the game, putting her season total at a team-leading 24 goals. As the lead was cut down to one, Brandt dashed in between two defenders and scored her second game-tying goal.  

Heading into the final quarter, the tension on the field was palpable for both teams. Every possession mattered in a game where goals were hard to come by. With six minutes remaining in regulation, the Quakers found themselves down again by a goal. Once more, it was the junior midfielder's time to strike back. Brandt scored her third goal of the game on a free position shot, which became her 14th goal of the season.

In the waning moments of a tie-game, the Quakers had possession of the ball with thirty seconds left to play. Amidst a chaotic sequence of events, Miles gathered and shot the ball aiming towards the corner of the goal. With a loud clank that reverberated across the field, Miles’s shot hit off the post, a goal which would have given Miles a hat trick, as well as lifted the Quakers to their first lead of the day.

On the ensuing possession, Michigan called timeout with roughly twenty seconds left in the match. Weaving through multiple defenders, Michigan attacker Jill Smith once again found the back of the net scoring the go-ahead goal to the delight of raucous Michigan fans in the crowd.

Down one with 18 seconds left, Brandt won the draw for Penn and sprinted down the field for one last shot, which went wide left of the net. As the game clock expired, time had finally run out for the Penn squad to make one final comeback.

After only scoring five goals, by far the lowest-scoring game for the Quakers this year, Corbett noted the importance of a more varied scoring output. Seeing that only Miles and Brandt scored for the Red and Blue, Penn was clearly deficient on the offensive side, where the team had previously scored at least 11 goals in each of its past six matches.

“We got to finish better. We only had two kids score, and you have seven out there. So there has to be more production out there by everybody and more of a team offense working together more,” Corbett said.

Although any loss is difficult to swallow, Corbett reflected on the importance of what it meant to go up against a top-ranked team like Michigan so early in the season.

“I mean we felt we could win today. I think we did have the ball more than them,” Corbett said. “So, I do feel that we can play with anyone in the country. We wanted to show that today and came up on the short end of the stick, unfortunately.”

Next week the Red and Blue continue Ivy League play with a match against Harvard on Saturday, March 23 at home. The team will look to rekindle some of its offensive firepower that was extinguished against a tough Big 10 team.