PHILADELPHIA - After two convincing wins to begin 2010, No. 3 Penn heads down to No. 4 North Carolina on Saturday for a matinee beginning at 1 p.m. The matchup of two of the four teams from the 2009 NCAA Final Four is the first marquee matchup of the 2010 women's lacrosse schedule.
The Quakers and Tar Heels have met just twice, with Penn claiming wins in 2008 and 2009. The series opener, in Chapel Hill, was a close affair that seemed destined for overtime until then senior - and current Penn assistant coach - Melissa Lehman scored an unassisted goal with only 14 seconds remaining to give Penn an 8-7 win. Lehman had three goals for the Red and Blue in the win, as did Becca Edwards. Ali DeLuca was the only current Quaker to factor in the scoring, netting a goal and an assist.
Last year at Franklin Field, the Quakers made sure late-game heroics were not needed with an 11-2 win. Courtney Lubbe was a force for the Red and Blue with eight total points. Her five goals established a career high and her first two scores turned a 2-1 Penn lead into a comfortable 4-1 advantage heading into halftime. In the second half, Penn exploded for seven goals, putting the game out of reach with a six-goal run to close the game. Emily Szelest had six saves in the win for the then-No. 6 Quakers over No. 9 UNC. Defender Hillary Renna had two caused turnovers to go with three groundballs. Kaileigh Wright also had three ground balls for Penn in the win. Emma Spiro (four) and Giulia Giordano (three) were a big factor in the Red and Blue maintaining possession on draw controls.
The Quakers have only played two games so far in 2010, but is clear the offense was prepared for the season to start. Penn has scored 29 goals in its first two contests, compared to just 20 in 2009. DeLuca has scored ten times already on the young season - a quarter of her season total from last year. It took her just two starts in '10 to do something she couldn't accomplish all of last season - net the game-winner, something she did on Wednesday at Temple in Penn's 15-3 win.
In addition to DeLuca, a potent and evenly distributed offense is in its formative stages. Giulia Giordano and Maddie Poplawski each have four goals while Courtney Lubbe and Bridget Waclawik each have three. The trouble for opposing teams extends more than just to who may take the shot - they can't be sure who the key distributor is either. Penn has three players with four or more assists through two games, led by Lubbe's five. Erin Brennan and Giordano have four helpers on the season to contribute to Penn's precise attack.
On defense, Barb Seaman has four caused turnovers and a pair of groundballs. Poplawski has a team-high five groundballs and five draw controls. Giordano has three each of caused turnovers, draw controls and groundballs.
Emily Szelest has drawn the start in both games for Penn, and has allowed seven goals in 90 minutes of action.
The Tar Heels are coming off a 2009 season which saw them reach the national championship game. UNC enters the weekend with a 5-0 record, outscoring opponents 89-30. The 17.8 goals-per-game average was helped tremendously by outputs of 22 (vs. Oregon) and 19 (at Richmond) as well as an 18-goal performance last time out against Florida.
Senior Kristen Taylor sits atop UNC's scoring list in 2010 with 16 goals and three assists. She is one of three Tar Heels in double figures in goals, along with Corey Donohoe (12) and Jenn Russell (11.) The Heels have drawn an average of eight free position attempts a game and have converted on 24 of them compared to only 6-of-12 for their opponents.
In goal, UNC boasts returning national Goalkeeper of the Year and first-team All-America, Logan Ripley. The senior has started all five games for the Heels and has a GAA of 5.57, allowing 23 goals while making the same amount of saves.