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PHILADELPHIA - For the sixth consecutive year, Penn opens a women's lacrosse season in defense of an Ivy League championship, bring the nation's longest consecutive conference championship winning streak and a No. 11 preseason ranking to the start of another season.
The Quakers will begin the 2013 season on Saturday at Franklin Field against annual season-opening opponent Drexel. The Quakers and Dragons have opened the past six seasons with a University City showdown - seasons that have ended in Ancient Eight titles - and the Quakers have picked up the win in all of them. All-time, Penn is 12-1 against the Dragons and has won the last seven meetings. Drexel's only win in the series came in 1993.
Penn returns 17 players from the 2012 team, including 10 starters. In addition, two players who were primary starters in 2011 are back after missing all or most of last season.
In 2012, Penn scored 178 goals - second-most among Ivy teams. This season, the Quakers will return %81 of that offense, led by Meredith Cain. One of Penn's four captains, Cain was second on the team with 32 goals last season and enters 2013 with 58 career goals. Fellow captain Maddie Poplawski leads all returning players in goals with 61 over her first three seasons. The unanimous first-team All-Ivy and third-team All-American led the Ivy League with 14 free position goals and was 19th in the country on the draw with 61 draw controls. A third captain, Caroline Bunting, scored 23 goals last season and has 49 career scores. Junior Courtney Tomchik was third on the team last year in scoring with 33 points on 28 goals and five assists, bursting onto the scene after missing all of 2011 with injury. Classmate Shannon Mangini also enjoyed a breakout season in 2012, scoring 14 goals after tallying just three as a freshman. That quintet, plus veterans Kylie Gauthier and Lindsey O'Loughlin, will ensure that Penn's offense maintains its scoring pace despite the graduation of two-time All-American Erin Brennan who led the Quakers with 33 goals and 27 assists last year.
In the midfield, Poplawski will be joined by juniors Tory Bensen and Lindsey Smith. The 2012 season was cut short for Bensen after she was injured three games into the year. She had three goals, four draw controls and four ground balls over the three games before she was injured and was coming off a freshman year in 2011 where she netted 14 goals - good for sixth on the team. Smith missed all of 2012 after a preseason injury, but is cleared and ready to go for 2013. She started 16 games her freshman season, scoring seven goals while tying for second on the team with 29 ground balls. Mangini, quad-captain Kelly McCallion (career high four goals last season), Brittany Swanson and Crissy Gambino are four more veterans who will provide experience and leadership in the middle of the field.
Defensively, Penn returns every field player who had a role in the defensive third last year, led by a pair of All-Ivy performers in Lydia Miller and Taylor Foussadier. An All-Region and All-Ivy player in 2011, Miller has started 29 games over her two seasons and is fully recuperated from an injury which prematurely ended her season before the Ivy League Tournament last April. Foussadier started all 17 games in her freshman season en route to honorable mention All-Ivy honors. She was third on the team with 12 caused turnovers. Fellow sophomore Meg Markham returns, as well, building off a 21-gound ball freshman campaign. Leah McBride rounds out the trio of sophomore defenders who saw extensive time as rookies and brings 11 career starts with her. Allie Martin adds another veteran presence on defense with 28 career appearances.
In goal, Penn will look to sophomore transfer Lucy Ferguson and junior Cary Churchill to take over for graduated Emily Leitner. Ferguson was second-team All-CAA and a CAA All-Rookie team selection last season at William & Mary, ranking fourth nationally in saves and finishing third in the CAA in save percentage. Churchill, a junior, has two years of experience under her belt and is ready to compete for the starting job.
Penn will add nine freshmen to its lineup for 2013. McKenzie Hunt will join the attack, while Nina Corcoran, Lely DeSimone, Catherine Dickinson, Brooke Kiley, Marisa Noto and Iris Williamson have been added to the midfield. Liz Gully is penciled in to add depth to the defensive unit while Courtney Rushford is another goalie in the mix.