PHILADELPHIA - No. 8 Penn can't be faulted for having its mind in two places this weekend as the Quakers have a game with national implications on Friday night (7 p.m.) at No. 1 Maryland followed by a Sunday morning tilt inside the Ivy League at Columbia (11 a.m.)
In 2010, Penn couldn't get passed the freight train that was the Maryland Terrapins, losing twice to the eventual national champions - including a season-ending defeat in the NCAA Championships.
The No. 8 Quakers have a chance at a measure of redemption Friday night when they return to College Park for a 7 p.m. game against the top-ranked Terps.
Maryland enters the game as the unanimous No. 1 in the most recent IWLCA poll with an 11-0 mark to start their title defense. The Quakers are 7-1 this season, and are looking to make their second trip to the state of Maryland a more fruitful one than last week's 8-5 loss at Johns Hopkins.
The key to this game will ultimately be which team can force the style of play in its favor. Maryland boasts the nation's most potent offense, scoring an average of 16.80 goals-per-game with 185 total goals scored this season. Penn prides itself on shut-down defense, holding opponents to just 6.25 goals-per-game, good for third-best in the country. In 11 games this season, the Terps have failed to reach double digits in goals scored just once (a 7-5 over Syracuse) and have gone over 17 goals in a game nine times. The Quakers have held their opponents to nine goals or less in all eight games this season and less than six goals in four outings. However, Maryland isn't just all firepower, they can keep the ball out of the cage as well with their fourth-best team defense of 6.30 goals-per-game complimenting the potent offense.
Individually, Penn's Emily Leitner will be called upon to hold off two of the nation's top scorers in Sarah Mollison and Karri Ellen Johnson. In her first season as full-time starter in goal for the Quakers, Leitner is second in the country in goals-against average at 6.25 and 18th in save percentage at 48.5% Mollison has been on fire of late for the Terps, entering the week ninth in the land in points before she dropped 10 points on Towson earlier this week. She enters with 58 points this season and leads the country in assists with 32. Johnson has already scored 39 goals this season and has 51 total points.
In last year's NCAA Quarterfinal, Penn clawed back into the game after Maryland took a 4-1 lead Just over ten minutes into the game, working its way back to within one at 6-5 early in the second half. However, Tewaraaton Trophy winner Caitlyn McFadden scored four times in the second half to help the Terps pull away for a 15-10 win. Emma Spiro had four goals for Penn while Ali DeLuca had three goals and three assists. Erin Brennan was a big factor as well with a goal and four helpers. McFadden finished with five goals and three assists to lead the Terrapins while Mollison had five goals and six total points and Johnson scored four times.
In the first meeting of the 2010 season, The Terps utilized a 14-6 advantage in draw controls to spur a 12-6 win at Franklin Field. Johnson led all players with five points on four goals and an assist. DeLuca and Spiro each had two goals for the Quakers in the loss.
Overall, Maryland holds a 15-2 lead in the all-time series. Penn's last win came in the 2007 NCAA Quarterfinals via a 9-7 decision at Franklin Field.
A quick turnaround awaits Penn following the Friday game at Maryland as the Quakers will head to New York City for an important Ivy game at Columbia. The Lions, with former Penn assistant coach Liz Kittleman at the helm and former Penn great Courtney Lubbe an assistant on her staff, are 1-6 this season and 0-3 inside the Ancient Eight.
Another wrinkle to the matchup is the fact that Kerri Whitaker -- one of Penn's current assitants -- was the head coach at Columbia for the previous nine seasons (2002-10) before resigning from her position to move closer to her home in Pennsylvania. Kittleman took the head job in the Big Apple, opening the vacancy on Karin Brower Corbett's staff that Whitaker then filled. Needless to say, there is a lot of familiarity between the two coaching staffs and teams.
The Quakers, 3-0 inside the Ivies this season, are riding a 32-game winning streak in conference play which includes a 19-7 win over the Lions at Franklin Field last season. Erin Brennan had four goals and an assist in the win last season while Giulia Giordano had two goals and three assists. Brittany Shannon had four goals for the Lions in the loss.
Olivia Mann and Taylor Gattinela lead Columbia this season with 15 goals apiece. Kacie Johnson is right behind with 14 while Gabrielle Geronimos rounds out a quartet of double-digit goal scorers with 10 goals. They make up a vast majority of the Lions' attack as they have combined for 54 of Columbia's 61 goals this season.