Ivy League Release Outlining Potential Scenarios
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PHILADELPHIA - Penn-Princeton. Top-20 Battle. Revenge.
All three of those storylines are enough when No. 10 and No. 17 Princeton battle on Wednesday night (7 p.m.) in New Jersey in the Ivy League finale for both. However, the two storied rivals will add another layer to their battle as there are serious Ancient Eight implications riding on the 41st installment of this rivalry.
Both teams enter the week with a chance to earn a share of the Ivy League title. Normally that is all well and good, but there are a total of five teams which could end up raising a banner following this week's play. In fact, following the completion of the week's games, anywhere from one to five teams could end up as champion or co-champions.
Both the Quakers and Tigers need a win and some help to earn a championship, but there is also the matter of the Ivy League Tournament to consider. The top seed and location of the tournament to award the Ancient Eight's automatic bid to the 2012 NCA Tournament is still undecided, and could linger until Cornell's finale at Brown on April 28. Only Princeton can be eliminated solely on a loss this week, but Penn knows that a loss puts itself in danger of missing out on the Ivy League Tournament for the first time.
In a jumble of tiebreakers, calculations and permutations truly befitting the Ivy League, there is even a scenario where all five teams in the hunt for an Ivy title - Penn, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell and Dartmouth - could finish the regular season at 5-2 and be co-champions. The downside of a sixth-consecutive League crown for the Quakers in that version of the title race? Penn could lose out on tiebreakers and would not advance to the Ivy Tournament depending on how the tiebreakers work out.
If all five teams finish tied at 5-2, the tiebreaker needed to determine the top seed and host would be goal differential in games against the other four teams tied. Currently, Cornell is the only team to have played all four schools and has a +4 goal differential, ahead of Dartmouth (+1), Penn (Even), Princeton (-1) and Harvard (-4). If Cornell remained ahead in that category, the Big Red would host. The second seed would be determined by records against the remaining three teams, which Harvard and Princeton would win via their 2-1 mark. Then, Dartmouth would take the fourth seed via its 9-7 win over Penn two weeks ago.
It's crazy, it's convoluted, it's what makes sports so enthralling. The key for the Quakers, quite simply, is to ignore all that you just read, and focus on what they can control - beating Princeton.
Obviously, there is a lot at stake in this meeting between Penn and Princeton, with both teams fighting to keep their seasons alive. Penn, in addition, should pack some serious motivation for the game in the form of memories from two tough losses to the Tigers in 2011. It was Princeton which ended Penn's record winning streak inside the Ivy League last April 20 via an 11-7 win at Franklin Field. Then, two weeks later, the Tigers bounced Penn from the Ivy League Tournament in overtime to deny Penn a shot at repeating as tourney champions.
In the regular-season meeting last year, Erin Brennan was held without a point - one of just two games in her illustrious career where she did not register at least one point. Brennan did follow that up with one goal and three assists in the next meeting between the two teams, and she enters the game with 17 of her 199 career points in games against the Tigers.
Brennan is one of four 20-goal scorers for the Quakers this season, and if Shannon Mangini can add three more goals in the next two games, the Red and Blue will ensure its first season with five 20-goal scorers since 2010. Meredith Cain and Maddie Poplawski each have 23 goals to rank second on the team, and Courtney Tomchik sits squarely on the 20-goal mark entering Wednesday's tilt.
One Penn player familiar with Princeton is Leah McBride. The freshman defender is the younger sister of former Princeton men's lacrosse player Jack - a three-time All-American for the Tigers. The younger McBride has started the last six games on defense for the Quakers, and has her family supporting the Red and Blue while she ranks fourth on the team in ground balls (14) and is sixth in caused turnover (7) while playing only two-thirds as many games as those ranked ahead of her.
While Penn has a bit of a safety net if it isn't successful on Wednesday, it is do-or-die for the Tigers. Princeton must win to stay alive for not only an Ivy title - but to even qualify for the Ivy League Tournament. The Tigers would be 4-3 inside the League with a loss to Penn, and do not hold tiebreakers over Cornell or Harvard after losses to both this season.
Jaci Gassaway leads Princeton with 44 points, scoring 30 goals along the way in her junior season. A first-team All-Region selection last year, Gassaway is close to setting new career highs in goals (33) and points (46). Cassie Pyle and Erin McMunn each have 42 points, with the senior Pyle leading the Tigers with 36 goals and the freshman McMunn pacing Princeton in assists with 27. Another freshman has taken over in goal, with Annie Woehling posting a 9.11 goals-against average and a save percentage of .428.