PHILADELPHIA – With a season-opening win over Delaware in its back pocket, No. 17 Penn hits the road for the first time in 2014 this weekend, heading to Chapel Hill to take on defending national champion and the current No. 1 ranked team in the country, North Carolina. The Quakers and Tar Heels will meet at Fetzer Field with a 1 p.m. first draw.
The Quakers are just 1-0, navigating the early portion of their schedule. For the Tar Heels, the season is already more than 25% complete. UNC is 5-0 to start 2014 and is riding a nine-game winning streak dating back to the start of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Taking on the defending national champion is nothing new for Karin Corbett’s club. Sunday’s game will mark the eighth consecutive year that Penn has scheduled the defending national champ and makes 10 of the last 11 seasons where the previous year’s champion as tangled with the Red and Blue the following campaign. Penn will be looking for its second win in those games, the lone victory coming over Northwestern, 11-7, in 2008.
The Quakers have played the Tar Heels even in the all-time series, with each team sporting three wins in six all-time meetings. The series began in 2008 and has been played each of the last six seasons. Last year, then-No. 18 Penn was downed by No. 3 North Carolina, 11-5, at Franklin Field. In Chapel Hill, Penn is 1-2 all-time with the win coming in the series’ first meeting on Mar. 1, 2008.
On Thursday, Penn had two members of its defensive unit named to the 2014 Tewaaraton Award Watch List in defender Meg Markham and goalkeeper Lucy Ferguson. The pair of juniors both earned unanimous first-team All-Ivy honors last season and were All-Region selections. In the opener against Delaware, both were back to their old tricks. Ferguson stymied the Blue Hens on a pair of first-half free positions as part of a six-save, three-ground ball day. Markham led all players with five draw controls and added a caused turnover and ground ball.
Both will be called upon to at least replicate that effort – if not improve upon it – against the Tar Heels. UNC is averaging 20.6 goals-per-game and has crossed the 20-goal plateau in four of its five contests to start 2014. In their season opener, the Tar Heels dominated No. 4 Florida, 20-8, scoring 14 second-half goals. On Thursday, UNC downed No. 12 Notre Dame, 19-9.
Five players are already in double figures in scoring for the Tar Heels, led by senior Abbey Friend who has 22. A second-team All-American last season, Friend is a regular member of Canada’s senior national team. Sophomore Aly Messinger has 16 goals this season, almost halfway to her season total from 2013. Freshman Sydney Holman is a dual-threat on offense with 14 goals and 13 assists early in her collegiate career.
Junior Margaret Corzel in a preseason All-American defender who leads a group which is averaging 7.80 goals allowed this season. Classmate Sarah Scott is in the midst of a breakout season with 25 draw controls and 10 ground balls after totaling five each over her first two seasons.
Testing North Carolina’s defense will be Penn’s attack led by Tory Bensen. The senior had five goals in the season opener, including a perfect 4-for-4 on eight meters. She has three career goals against the Tar Heels, including two during her freshman season in Penn’s 10-7 win at Franklin Field.