IT'S GAME DAY! Penn Ready to Duke It Out

Video~Penn Women's Lacrosse All-Access: # 2 Penn vs. # 11 Duke Preview

Video~Penn Women's Lacrosse All-Access: Giulia Giordano-Freshman Attack

Click here for FREE Penn Sports Network live play-by-play audio broadcast (Air Time- 8:15 PM EST)

Directions to Unitas Stadium

TOWSON, Md. - Greetings from Towson! The weather is perfect, a great day for lax!

If you are planning to attend tonight's game, be aware that plenty of tickets are still available. Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $8 for students with ID or children under the age of 18.

With the first draw for tonight only a few hours away, let’s break down both games and some things to think about heading into tonight’s semifinals...

First, an overall statement about our final four teams. It is a unique situation in that, we believe, you have four teams that enter Friday night feeling like they have something to prove.

In the first game, you have three-time defending champion Northwestern. The Wildcats’ recent loss at Penn can only provide extra motivation, as they feel the need to re-assert their place of eminence in the sport. For Syracuse, which is making its first semifinal appearance, there is the chance to prove they belong with the big girls, and further bolster the quickly-budding resume of first-year head coach Gary Gait (as if all those championships he was part of at Maryland weren’t validation enough).

In your second semifinal, you have a Penn team that continues to feel the need to prove themselves weekly (with good reason, if you ever jump on the message boards out there). If once was a fluke, does two straight semifinal appearances represent a trend? As for Duke, the Blue Devil seniors are playing in their fourth straight NCAA semifinal. The first three ended with a loss, including an epic OT battle with Northwestern two years ago, and of course last year’s debacle at Franklin Field (when they held a 13-4 lead on Virginia in the second half but completely collapsed and fell, 14-13). You think Duke feels like it has something to prove?

(finally, did anyone notice that we enter the weekend with the possibility of a Duke-Syracuse final in both the men’s and women’s lacrosse championships? That would be interesting, but obviously as Penn fans we do not see that as cool)

On to the matchups...

Wow, you look at these two offenses and you just expect that this game will have a little bit of everything. Syracuse averages nearly 19 goals per game, leading the nation in that category, while Northwestern is third with just over 16 goals per contest. The teams are 1-2 in scoring margin nationally (Syracuse +10.50, NU +9.05). When they met earlier this season, on March 24, the Wildcats rolled the Orange, 19-7 -- Syracuse has not lost since then. Finally, the coaching pedigree is as good as it gets; both teams incorporate elements of the men’s game that you simply do not see a lot in the women’s game. With the in mind, we foresee fireworks throughout. The question becomes which defense has the better chance to slow down which offense -- note we did not say stop -- and the feeling here is that Northwestern is that team. The Wildcats have been here, and they can be relentless with their defensive pressure, and so we think the ‘Cats will pull out a game in which both teams will reach mid to high double-digit goal totals.

Talk about applying the brakes! After the first semifinal, fans will be excused if they are brought back to earth by a pair of teams that are far more deliberate and petient on offense. However, in Penn and Duke you are talking about two teams playing with freedom and confidence, and without any semblance or awe; it is a recipe for a great contest. Two big keys for this game will be possession and playing with the lead; for that reason, draw controls will be a huge factor. While Duke has some players with outrageous offensive numbers -- Carolyn Davis, who injured her ACL in last year’s semifinal loss to UVA, has 71 points, while Megan Del Monte has 66 -- Penn has used an offensive attack that may be devoid of supertars but is not short on weapons. When it comes to defense, there is none better than Penn; the Quakers lead the nation with a 6.00 goals-against average. Tarah Kirnan and Hillary Renna boast arguably the best 1-2 defensive punch in the country, and behind them you have Sarah Waxman between the pipes. She has been nothing short of spectacular all year.

Finally, we give you something to think about...

Is time on Penn’s side?
The Quakers have a LONG day ahead of them -- first draw with the Blue Devils is not until 8:30 p.m. For a team used to playing in the early afternoon, that is a lot of time sitting around in the hotel waiting for things to happen. Does that play into their minds? remember that a year ago, Penn was home for the semis -- they could literally go to their own beds and own houses after all the pre-game functions -- and played in the 6 p.m. contest.