Box Score (PDF)
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PRINCETON - All week long, pundits spent time -- way too much time -- breaking down the litany of possibilities on who could win the Ivy League championship and who could host the Ivy League Tournament.
Penn entered Wednesday's game at archrival Princeton faced with possibilities that started with an outright Ivy League championship and ended in a distinct possibility of a sixth-consecutive Ivy crown but no seat at the Ancient Eight postseason table. Given those choices, the No. 10 Quakers chose to take matters into their own hands and give the former a whirl.
Playing on the road, the Quakers put together one of their most well-rounded games of the 2012 season and packed a 13-8 win on the bus back to Philadelphia. With the win, Penn secured a 6-1 finish inside the Ivy League and at least a share of its sixth-straight Ivy League title. The Red and Blue will now await the result of Friday's game between Dartmouth and Harvard. A win by the Crimson will provide Penn with an outright championship, and the right to host the Ivy League Tournament for a third consecutive year.
Seven of the 13 players who saw the field for Penn scored a goal, led by Caroline Bunting and Meredith Cain with three apiece. Erin Brennan and Courtney Tomchik each added a pair of goals, while Lindsey O'Loughlin, Maddie Poplawski and Shannon Mangini each scored once.
The first half was back and forth for the opening 10 minutes, with the Quakers taking a 3-2 lead before Princeton countered for a 4-3 lead with 19:06 to play in the first half. That was the last lead the Tigers would hold, as Penn scored the next three goals to build a 6-4 lead it would never relinquish.
Courtney Tomchick tied the game at 3-3, scoring unassisted at the 12:53 mark. Erin Brennan followed with a historic goal with 12:49 to go in the opening half, giving Penn the last lead it took. Her unassisted goal was the 200th point of her career, moving her into rare air as the third Penn player to reach that mark in the history of the program.
Just past the 20-minute mark, Shannon Mangini connected on a free position for Penn, just one of two eight-meter shots the Quakers scored in the game. The good side of that number was that Penn was 2-for-2 to Princeton's 3-for-6.
Cassie Pyle scored with 4:15 to go in the first half to bring Princeton within one at 6-5, but as she has done frequently this season, Brennan was ready for the next draw in a big way. She took a pass from Caroline Bunting and sent it home just 11 seconds after Princeton's goal to reclaim a two-goal lead for Penn. The final moments of the first half were frantic, with Maddie Poplawski netting and unassisted goal and Pyle then hitting a post on a free position with five seconds remaining in the half.
That swing was a momentum-changer heading into the break, but Princeton struck first to start the second half as Jaci Gassaway scored at 34:35 to get the Tigers back to just two goals down. Meredith Cain answered that goal, powering to the cage to one-touch an Erin Brennan pass for a goal just 47 seconds later, but Erin McMunn countered with a free position shortly after to make it a two-goal game for the final time.
The Red and Blue scored the next three goals to pull away, Cain connecting twice and Bunting once. The three-goal spurt took almost ten minutes to develop as Penn maintained possession and took good shots. That run built a 12-7 lead, and the five-goal margin was the final spread after both teams scored once in the final nine minutes.
The Quakers were as clean as they have been in any game this season, only committing six turnovers while winning 13 draws and finding 12 ground balls. All three of those numbers were better than their counterparts from New Jersey, providing a significant edge in possession. Maddie Poplawski led all players with five draw controls, while Meredith Cain's four ground balls were the most by any player in the game.
Penn has now taken second place in most consecutive Ivy League titles in women's lacrosse, with a share of at least six titles dating back to the 2007 season. The mark for most Ivy titles in a row belongs to Harvard which won seven straight from 1987-92 (sharing the title twice).
The Quakers have one game left in the regular season, heading to Duke on Saturday at noon.
One thing is for certain, Penn will have a game on May 4 in the Ivy League Tournament. Where that first draw takes place, though, is still to be determined.