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Senior goalkeeper Kelly Van Hoesen attempts to save a ball in the second round of the NCAA tournament on May 12.

Credit: Weining Ding

It’s mid May and the Quakers are still dancing.

After cruising past Richmond in the first round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Tournament, No. 8 Penn women’s lacrosse secured its spot in the quarterfinals by beating Loyola Maryland with a score of 12-9. 

“We have a saying — ‘Penn Pride’ — and the [team] just showed that today,” coach Karin Corbett said. “I really felt that they dominated the game, and to do that to Loyola twice this year is pretty impressive. It just was an all around team effort.”

Like the last time the two played, Penn (15-4, 5-2 Ivy) opened up the scoring. Two goals from senior midfielder Maria Themelis gave the Quakers an early two goal lead. It took the Greyhounds (18-3, 9-0 Patriot) nearly eight minutes before attacker Anna Ruby was finally able to get Loyola on the scoreboard. Despite leading by three midway through the second quarter, thanks to two goals from senior attacker Niki Miles, the Greyhounds clawed their way back into the game, closing out the half with a 3-0 run to send both teams into the locker room back at square one. 

The third quarter was underscored with lackluster performances on the draw for the Red and Blue. In that time frame, Loyola won all but one of the six draws. Fortunately for the Quakers, senior goaltender Kelly Van Hoesen manned the cage particularly well. Van Hoesen finished the game with 12 total saves, with half of those coming in the third period of play. Anchored by Van Hoesen, the Quakers were able to stay afloat on the scoreboard despite the lack of control on possessions. 

“She really feeds with our defense. We try and limit her shots but when she makes those big saves, the whole team feels that,” senior defender Izzy Rohr said. “When we get that ball to the attack and then they score a goal, that all comes from her and starts with her. We can't give her enough credit.”

A better time could not have come for Rohr — the back-to-back Ivy League Defender of the Year — to pick up her first career goal. With the Greyhounds down just one, aggressive play on defense forced a turnover that Rohr drove toward goal herself. She did not hesitate to fire the ball into the back of the net when no Loyola defender slid to pick her up. 

“I've never really wanted to shoot in the past because if I miss, then I'm the one running all the way back,” Rohr said. “I think that's one of the great momentum goals [we had]. Our whole team really felt that and … it really brings up the energy of the team and it was really exciting — I'm 100% shooting!”

Two goals from junior midfielder Anna Brandt in that same period were enough to give Penn a narrow one-goal lead heading into the final frame of play. The fourth quarter opened up with marked improvement from the Quakers on the draw. Senior midfielder Aly Feely won the draw, drawing the green card foul from midfielder Chase Boyle in the process to gift the Quakers with a woman-up opportunity. The Red and Blue capitalized, as freshman attacker Catherine Berkery made no mistakes in finding the back of the net.

On the next draw, senior defender Morgan Smith won control of the draw, and a foul on Brandt allowed her to round out her hat trick, scoring her third goal of the game off a free position shot. With Penn now up by three, the Greyhounds kicked up its play into extra gear as they searched to make up for lost ground. But the clock was ticking and time was running out

Once again, Van Hoesen stood her ground. Even when Loyola scored, Van Hoesen and the defense forced the Greyhounds to take lengthy amounts of time. And that was when they scored. Of the 11 shots that Loyola had, the team was only able to score three, including converting just one of four free position opportunities. On the other end of the field, Penn was running a clinic on efficiency as it scored all five of its shots in that quarter. 

The game closed out in fitting fashion as Van Hoesen came up big with a free-position save with just over a minute to play. Despite Loyola regaining possession of the ball, a forced turnover from midfielder Gracie Smith and ground ball pickup from senior defender Sophie Davis was all that the Quakers needed to secure its spot in the Elite Eight. 

“We gave up way too many eight meters today,” Corbett said. “But I think it showed how great our defense is to not really let them score much …. And I think that is really the strength of our team.”

There the Quakers will be coming face-to-face with a top-seeded Northwestern team who has dominated its competition all year. Penn women’s lacrosse will take the field again on May 16 in Evanston, Ill. to take on No. 1 Northwestern.

“We love being underdogs,” Rohr said. “A lot of people count us out and we love proving people wrong. We play Penn lacrosse no matter where we go or who we play against — [we’re] just playing our game.”

And the team’s confidence and faith in each other could not be higher.

“We're going to be just fine. I have full confidence in this team,” Brandt said. “We know what we can do. I think we just have to kind of execute at this point.”