PHILADELPHIA – Eight truly was ‘”great” for Penn’s women’s lacrosse team in 2014 as the Quakers did something no other Ivy League women’s lacrosse program had done in the history of the League – win an eighth consecutive regular season championship. The record-breaking crown, a second consecutive Ivy League Tournament championship and an eighth-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament were all part of a memorable 2014 for the Red and Blue.
Once again, the hallmark of Penn’s success as a team was its staunch commitment to defense. The Quakers finished 2014 ranked No. 7 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 7.78 goals-per-game while playing in 18 games – third most by any Penn team in program history. The Quakers allowed eight or fewer goals in 11 of their 18 games, and held opponents to six or fewer goals in seven games.
The epitome of Penn’s stifling defense came in the season’s second week as the Red and Blue limited Rutgers and Harvard to a combined seven goals in a pair of wins.
Penn put itself in a position to win games with complete halves where opposing teams had minimal chances to win games. Of the 36 halves Penn played in this season, 11 (31%) saw Penn allow just two or fewer goals.
Challenge Yourself, Prove Yourself
Penn’s goal throughout the season was to again take on a tough schedule to prepare for the Ivy League slate and a hopeful run in the NCAA Tournament. With the No. 7 RPI in the country, the Quakers met that challenge. Of Penn’s five losses in 2014, four came to teams ranked inside the top six at the time and the fifth was the always-difficult rivalry game with Princeton. For the 10th consecutive season, the Red and Blue took on the eventual national champion in a non-conference game, and for the eighth year in a row the previous season’s NCAA champion was on Penn’s schedule.
In addition to the non-conference games with the nation’s elite teams, the Quakers went out on the road to test themselves, picking up wins at No. 19 Georgetown and in their first-ever trip to Vanderbilt.
Ivy Intrigue as Quakers Rally for Title
The Ancient Eight slate was situated a bit differently for Penn in 2014 as the Quakers played Harvard and Yale in early March, then four non-conference contests before finishing the season with five consecutive League games. After dominant wins over the Crimson, Bulldogs and Dartmouth, the Quakers entered their April 16 meeting with Princeton in first place by themselves in the Ivy League, one game ahead of the Tigers. It wasn’t meant to be for the Quakers in Princeton on that Wednesday night, struggling to get any traction in a 9-5 loss to the Tigers.
That would be Penn’s last loss of the regular season, as the Quakers dismantled both Brown (12-6) and Columbia (17-4) before holding off a furious charge for Cornell in Ithaca for a 10-8 win in the final game of the regular season. That win ensured a tie atop the Ivy table, both Penn and Princeton knotted with matching 6-1 records.
Ivy Championship Makes History
With the eighth consecutive finish atop the Ivy standings, Penn set a new mark for most consecutive Ivy League women’s lacrosse championships. The previous record was seven, held by the 1987-93 Harvard teams and, of course, the 2007-13 Penn clubs.
In addition to Ivy League women’s lacrosse supremacy, the eight consecutive Ivy titles is a new record for a women’s program at the University of Pennsylvania and is tied for the most consecutive Ivy championships by any Penn program (men’s fencing; 1975-76 through 1982-83) in University history. Penn’s current run is tied for fourth-best all-time by an Ivy League women’s program.
Unfinished Business Taken Care Of in Ivy Tournament
Penn had to embark on an Ivy League Tournament unlike any other in the previous four years the tournament had been contested as the tiebreaker for hosting privilege went Princeton’s way. Thus, for the first time the Quakers would not serve as hosts and would need to venture into enemy territory to lock up an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
That was no problem for the Quakers, and perhaps even welcomed as the Red and Blue had sights set on some retribution for the loss earlier in the season to Princeton. But first, the Quakers would have to get through an upstart Harvard team which had ideas on its first trip to an Ivy League Tournament final.
It took two overtimes, but Tory Bensen’s goal 0:55 into the second extra session sealed a 10-9 win for the Quakers to reach their fourth Ivy League Tournament championship game – and a rematch with the host Tigers.
Penn wasted no time taking control of the championship contest, scoring the game’s first six goals and holding a 6-2 lead at halftime over Princeton. Four different players had two goals in the game and Tory Bensen tallied two assists en route to Most Outstanding Player honors as the Quakers knocked off Princeton, 9-6, to claim their second consecutive Ivy League Tournament championship and third overall.
Red and Blue Cans Canisius in NCAA Tournament
Much like its start to the Ivy League Tournament championship game, Penn’s opening effort to the NCAA Tournament left its opponents rattled and trailing. The Quakers scored the first five goals of their NCAA Tournament first round game against Canisius, and never looked back in a 9-4 win. Penn allowed two goals in each half, and Tory Bensen’s four goals were the main difference in the win. Taylor Foussadier had a big assignment in the game, marking Canisius’ offensive stalwart, Maria Kotas who entered the game with 54 goals and 79 total points in 2014. She netted just two goals in the game and was never a factor due to Foussadier’s stellar defensive work.
The win set up a second meeting with Maryland for the 2014 campaign, but the Quakers were unable to knock off the top-seeded Terps in a 13-5 loss. Penn led early, and closed within 4-3 two-thirds of the way through the first half, but Maryland’s offense was too much. The Terps would go on to win the NCAA championship, marking the fifth time in eight season’s that Penn’s run in the NCAA Tournament was ended at the hands of the eventual national champion.
Team Success Breeds Individual Honors
It was no surprise that at the end of the season Penn racked up the individual recognitions after so much team success.
Defender Meg Markham led the way, earning first-team All-American honors from the IWLCA – Penn’s first such honoree since 2010. Her case for first-team All-American was helped by her selection as Ivy League Defender of the Year, unanimous first-team All-Ivy, first-team All-Region and one of 25 Tewaaraton Award nominees.
Markham was joined as a Tewaaraton Award nominee, first-team All-Region and first-team All-Ivy selection by goalkeeper Lucy Ferguson. Nina Corcoran was also a first-team All-Ivy choice, picking up second-team All-Region honors as well. Taylor Foussadier, a second-team All-Ivy selection, was Penn’s fourth All-Region honoree with her second-team All-Region recognition. Penn is one of just two schools in the country that will return four or more All-Region selections next season.
Foussadier was joined on the All-Ivy second team by Lindsey Smith and Tory Bensen, while Lely DeSimone picked up honorable mention All-Ivy distinction. All seven Penn players named All-Ivy in 2014 will return for the 2015 season.
The Quakers will return 27 of 32 players from the 2014 team for next season, graduating Carly Churchill, Kylie Gauthier, Allie Martin, Brittany Swanson and Courtney Tomchik who each won four Ivy League titles while competing for the Red and Blue. Penn will return 14 of 16 letterwinners for next season, with Shannon Mangini – the 2013 Ivy League Midfielder of the Year – and McKenzie Hunt – who played in 14 games as a freshman – both expected to return as well after missing 2014 with injury.