No. 12 Women's Lacrosse Hosts No. 6 Northwestern

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PHILADELPHIA – No. 12 Penn will hold its annual Alumnae Weekend Saturday and Sunday, welcoming back former players for an Alumnae Game on Saturday before taking on an opponent the alumnae know all too well – No. 6 Northwestern – on Sunday.

The Quakers (6-2) and Wildcats (6-3) both enter the game battle-tested throughout the season. Penn’s “strength of schedule” ranks second in the nation while Northwestern’s ranks third. Sunday’s tilt will be Penn’s third against a team inside the top six in the nation this season and fourth against Top-20 opponents. The Wildcats will be playing their eighth game this season against a Top-20 opponent when they take on Penn Sunday.

Penn and Northwestern have met 12 times in women’s lacrosse, a series which has been controlled by the Wildcats for the most part with Penn’s lone win coming at Franklin Field in 2008, 11-7. The heart of the rivalry was formed from 2007-09 when the two teams met six times – three times in the regular season and three times in the NCAA Tournament. Each national tournament contest came on the season’s final weekend – two losses for Penn in the national semifinals and one in the 2008 national championship game. The 2009 NCAA semifinal game has gone down as one of the most memorable tournament games in recent times, Northwestern edging Penn in double overtime, 13-12.

The Red and Blue are alone in first place in the Ivy League with their 2-0 Ancient Eight record. Penn boasts the League’s best team defense, with 68 goals allowed over eight games to begin the season. Penn’s team defense has been bolstered by a defensive unit which has been aggressive on the ball, causing an Ivy League-best 11.0 caused turnovers-per-game. That number also ranks sixth in the country. Meg Markham entered the week leading both the Ivy League and the country in caused turnovers, averaging 3.29 per game. She was also tops among Ivy players in ground balls-per-game with 3.57, a number which was good for fifth in the nation.

Penn’s staunch defense has made a low-scoring – but efficient – offense stand up en route to its .750 winning percentage. The Quakers are shooting just .399 as a team for the season, but in their last two games have shot at a .679 clip, scoring 19 goals on 28 shots taken. Tory Bensen leads Penn in scoring with 21 points, but her ranking of 17th in the Ivy League shows how spread around Penn’s attack has been this season. 10 different players have scored at least one goal and six have scored six or more.

Nina Corcoran (20 points) and Iris Williamson (13 points) are the only two players on Penn’s roster to record at least one point in each game this season. Corcoran has 13 points in her last four games, scoring six goals and adding seven assists. Tory Bensen had recorded at least two points in every game this season before going without a point on Tuesday at Georgetown. She had scored two goals in each of the four previous games before the meeting with the Hoyas.

Lucy Ferguson has started every game for Penn in goal, and has allowed eight or fewer goals in half of those starts. Last time out, she made eight saves while conceding six goals in a win over the Hoyas. Her save percentage of .475 ranks third among Ivy keepers to this point in the season, but is above her League-leading save percentage from 2013.

Northwestern was 4-3 to start 2014, but has won its last two games to move to 6-3 through the midway point of the season. The Wildcats have not lost more than three games in a season since 2003.

The Wildcats have scored 107 goals over their nine games to start the season, with 18 different players hitting the back of the net at least once. Kaleigh Craig leads the team with 19 goals and 22 points, with Alyssa Leonard tied for the team lead in points on the strength of 18 goals and four assists. Kara Mupo, who missed most of 2013 with injury has returned to score 15 goals so far.

Defensively, a familiar name to Ivy League fans is patrolling the defensive third for Northwestern as Kate Ivory has enrolled at Northwestern to complete her eligibility after graduating from Cornell in 2013. The Ivy League’s Defender of the Year in 2013, Ivory has a team-high 14 ground balls this season and is second with nine caused turnovers. She is playing in front of returning third-team All-American Bridget Blanco in goal. Blanco has started every game this season and has posted an 8.21 GAA while making 60 saves.