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PHILADELPHIA - Penn entered the 2012 season with an air of uncertainty as its No. 11 women's lacrosse team featured only seven upperclassmen and were looking to a host of untested players to carry on the Quakers' championship pedigree. After unleashing an offensive barrage on University City neighbor Drexel in the season opener, the Red and Blue may have traded in any uncertainty for accuracy as the Quakers scored 18 goals on 31 shots in an 18-8 win over the Dragons.
Nine different players registered points for the Quakers, with four players scoring their first career goals. Five players had multi-point games, highlighted by co-captain Erin Brennan's six points. The senior moved into a seventh-place tie on Penn's career goal scoring list with her three goals, tying Lori Frutkin at 96. She also took over fourth place on Penn's all-time assist list with her three helpers giving her 63 over her career.
If Brennan's career is trending toward the top of Penn's offensive charts, perhaps another future resident at the top of the mountain burst onto the scene in her collegiate debut in Courtney Tomchik. The sophomore - Tomchik sat out all of 2011 after a preseason injury - exploded for three goals and two assists in her first game as a collegian. To compare her debut to a few recent first games by Penn standouts, Tomchik's five points eclipsed the one-point debuts of both Brennan (2009) and Penn's all-time leading goal scorer Ali DeLuca (2008).
Penn's offensive success in the game came as a result of strong play in the midfield spearheaded by juniors Maddie Poplawski and Meredith Cain. Poplawski was dominant on the draw, winning nine draw controls, just three off Drexel's team total of 12. When gaining possession for Penn, Poplawski then took the play to goal, scoring a career high four goals and connecting on both free position attempts she earned. Cain had three goals in the first half, helping Penn break open a tie game for a five-goal lead at the break.
The game was close for the first 12 minutes of the game, as the two sides scored early and often. Lizzy Price struck for her first collegiate goal 2:59 in to tie the game at 1-1 before Cain scored twice to provide Penn with a 3-1 lead.
Goals 33 seconds apart from Poplawski and Brennan gave Penn a 5-2 lead with just seven minutes off the scoreboard, but Drexel came back to tie at 11:33 before Penn found a serious offensive rhythm.
Penn again rattled off two quick ones when Poplawski and Cain scored 19 seconds apart in the 14th minute to give Penn a 7-2 lead. Those two goals were part of a 5-0 Penn run to close the half and a 12-1 run over 35:34 of game play that flipped the game squarely on the side of Penn.
That run featured the first career goal for sophomores Kylie Gauthier and Brittany Swanson in addition to the first strike by Tomchik. In addition, Tory Bensen added a pair of goals as the sophomore class accounted for seven of the 12 goals which put the game away for the Quakers.
While the freshmen class was held without points in their first game, the Class of 2015 was prominent on the defensive end with Taylor Foussadier causing a turnover and collecting a groundball while Meg Markham had two ground balls and a caused turnover. The two combined with Lydia Miller (two groundballs and a caused turnover) and Allie Martin (one caused turnover and one groundball) to hold Drexel to just 10 shots on goal. Emily Leitner made two saves while collecting one ground ball in the win.
Alyse Maiden had three goals for Drexel while Alissa Watts added a pair to lead the Dragons offensively.
The Quakers are 1-0 on the young season, and will head to No. 3 North Carolina next Saturday. Drexel falls to 2-1.
Brennan tied her career high with six points (Columbia, 4/3/11) ... Bensen tied her career high with two goals (3x, most recent vs. Columbia, 4/3/11) ... Price made her first career start ... Gauthier made her first career start and just second appearance ... Poplawski scored on all four of her shots taken and set a new career high in goals scored ... Cain equaled her career high in goals scored (3x, most recent at Duke 5/15/11) ... Swanson scored on her first career shot ... Penn's 18 goals were most scored since posting 19 against Brown (4/25/10) ... The last time Penn scored 18 goals in a road game was at Harvard (4/4/09) ... Penn is now 12-1 all-time against Drexel.