Video~Penn Women's Lacrosse All-Access: #2 Penn vs. #1 Northwestern Preview
TOWSON, Md. - Well, it’s Sunday! Game day! The Penn women’ s lacrosse team faces off with Northwestern for the national title in just a few hours, at 7 p.m., so as we approach the opening draw let’s break down some of the keys to the game...
Penn Offense vs. Northwestern Defense
Penn’s offense is pretty deliberate and patient, and thrives as a passing unit. One of the Quakers’ strengths is the ability to pull a defense out to a double team, avoid that double, and move the ball quickly enough to find an open player for a pretty good scoring opportunity after as many as five passes. This will come in handy tonight, as the Wildcat defense thrives on aggressive ball-hawking. NU will double-team all over the field, with plenty of slides behind them. Northwestern is also extremely hard with its stick checks, but Penn should be ready to face that.
Northwestern Offense vs. Penn Defense
Northwestern certainly has plenty of weapons offensively, with four players who have scored more than 35 goals and another with more than 25. They have arguably the best feeder in the country in junior Hannah Nielsen. There is lots of team speed and players who like to go to goal. How can Penn stop that? Probably by doing the same thing they did on April 27, when they held the Wildcats scoreless for the game’s final 35 minutes. Penn’s defense is not necessarily one that will aggressively strip the ball, as NU tries to do, but the Quakers are excellent in on-the-ball defense as well as with their slides behind the play. Nothing comes easy against Penn; it is not by accident that they lead the nation in goals-against average.
Last year Sarah Waxman won the coaches’ association’s national goalkeeper of the year honor, but there were plenty of people who felt like NU’s Morgan Lathrop should have gotten it. Fast-forward a year, and Waxman is probably a shoo-in for the award while Lathrop has had her ups and downs. Nevertheless, Lathrop is playing in her third championship game while Waxman is the newcomer. Waxman settled down after a slow start Friday night, and came up with some big saves. We expect both goalies to have good nights.
On the Draw
Draws are so critical in the sport of women’s lacrosse, and that was proven again Friday night in the Penn-Duke game. They will be huge tonight. Northwestern likes to strike quickly, and on Friday the Cats pulled away from Syracuse by owning the drawas in the second half and builiding up a substantial lead. Penn cannot let that happen tonight. The Quakers need to win draws, run their offense, and avoid a shootout.
Two outstanding staffs. Clearly Kelly Amonte Hiller and her staff have proven themselves, as they are going for their fourth straight national championship. Obviously, the last two years have proven that the Penn staff of Karin Brower, Julie Shaner Young, Gloria Lozano and Liz Kittleman takes a back seat to no one. Both teams are extremely well-coached, and there will be no surprises in this game. The winner will most likely be the team that executes its game plan better.
Team speed. Northwestern has lots of it, maybe more than any other team in the country, and it only adds to their aggressive nature (a natural by-product of a team coached by Kelly Amonte Hiller). However, Penn has constantly surprised teams with its speed, to the point where it should not be a surprise anymore. The Quakers can run with the Wildcats.