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PHILADLEPHIA - The No. 4 Penn women's lacrosse team has a prime opportunity to bounce back on Sunday when the Quakers host Cornell at Franklin Field at 1 p.m. Coming off a loss to Johns Hopkins on Wednesday, the Red and Blue will be looking to find rhythm on offense to match a defense that has been holding opponents to eight or fewer goals for the past month.
The loss to Hopkins was the first to an unranked opponent by a Penn team since March 15, 2006 and will serve as extra motivation as the Quakers look to keep the top spot in the Ivy League. Penn is the lone team entering the weekend with a 2-0 record in the Ancient Eight, while Dartmouth and Princeton are right behind at 1-0 inside the League. The Big Red are one of three teams at 1-1 along with Brown and Harvard, while Columbia and Yale are each 0-2 to start the 2011 League season.
Turnovers and ball control are two things Penn must improve upon from Wednesday's loss if the Quakers are to reach the goals they have set for this season. In the first half against Johns Hopkins, Penn committed nine turnovers, giving the Blue Jays extra possessions which helped Penn fall behind in the game. Late in the game, after Penn had crawled back to within three, the Quakers couldn't gain possession and keep the momentum, allowing JHU to run out the final 13 minutes of the game for the 8-5 win.
Cornell's opponents so far this season have been turning the ball over at a rate of 15.4 turnovers-per-game this season, meaning Penn's will again be faced with an aggressive defense looking to force the Red and Blue into bad plays.
The pace of Sunday's game will come down to which team can impose its will on the other. Penn likes to slow the game down, making each possession count. The Big Red's games this year have averaged 54 shots and 18 goals in each game to 26 shots and 14 goals for the Quakers, showing that Cornell is willing to run-and-gun with its opponents.
If Cornell is to turn the game into a track meet, junior attack Jessi Steinberg will be a big reason why. A unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection in 20101, Steinberg has 18 goals and 20 points through seven games this season after a 40-goal performance last year. Last week against No. 14 Notre Dame, Steinberg had three goals as the Big Red erased a 4-0 halftime deficit for a 6-5 win in double overtime. The game-winner came off the stick of Steinberg as she completed the hat trick with just 18 seconds left in the period.
Steinberg is one of three players over 10 goals this season for Cornell, joined by senior Libby Johnson (13) and junior Katie Kirk (10). The Big Red have had just eight players score the 62 goals recorded this season and only 17 of those goals (27%) have come with an assist.
Penn has also been the beneficiary of mainly unassisted goals, with only 30% (18-of-60) coming with a starting pass attributed. Erin Brennan has 18 points to lead Penn, including 12 goals. She scored twice on Wednesday as did Giulia Giordano who now has 11 this season. Caroline Bunting has nine goals, with one score in six of seven games in 2011.
Emily Leitner still boasts a miniscule 6.29 goals-against average this season and has saved 48.8% of the shots that reached goal. In front of her, a pair of freshman in Lydia Miller (six caused turnovers, five ground balls) and Lindsey Smith (eight ground balls) have worked with seniors Lily Posner, Carolyn Pollard and Keely Langdon to keep opponents to the nation's third-lowest goal-per-game output.
Last year, Penn exploded in the second half, turning a 3-3 tie at the break into a 15-6 victory in Ithaca. Ali DeLuca had five goals in the win while Emma Spiro added four. Steinberg notched three for the Big Red in the loss.
Penn has won four in a row over the Big Red, with only a 7-6 win at Cornell in 2008 coming via less than five goals. Overall, Penn is 20-15 against the Big Red and 10-7 at Franklin Field.