PHILADELPHIA - Certain things about the start of the 2011 women's lacrosse season have an air of familiarity for Penn.
Entering the season as defending Ivy League champions? Check - four-time defending champs to be exact.
Starting the season with a high national ranking? Check - the Quakers were ranked No. 6 by the IWLCA in the preseason poll, and improvement from a final ranking of No. 7 in 2010.
An opening game against neighboring Drexel? Check - the Quakers have opened their season with the Dragons the last four years.
However, there are also winds of change in the program with the graduation of the eight members of the Class of 2011 opening up loads of playing time for head coach Karin Brower Corbett. Gone are names like DeLuca, Spiro, Lubbe, Seaman, Wright, Smith, Taylor and Szelest; in their place steps names like Brennan, Giordano, Pollard, Poplawski, Bunting and Leitner. In addition to the returning players, a crop of 10 newcomers is primed to make its mark on Penn women's lacrosse.
Penn's cupboard is in no way bare when it comes to offense as Brennan and Giordano return after finishing 2010 as Penn's second and third leading scorers. Combined, the two accounted for 60 of Penn's 223 goals (27%) and 105 of Penn's 334 points (31%). They enter 2011 tied for 15th all-time on Penn's career scoring list with 101 points, with Brennan reaching that number is only two seasons.
In addition to that pair, Penn is looking to a pair of sophomores to increase their scoring roles in their second campaigns. Maddie Poplawski has 21 goals in her freshman season, including eight free position goals. Classmate Caroline Bunting had five goals in just 10 games, but has been coming on strong in preseason for the Red and Blue.
Senior Bridget Waclawik was on fire in the early stages of 2010, with 12 goals and 14 points in nine games before an injury curtailed her season. She is back at full strength and another key cog in Penn's offensive arsenal.
If there is one area where Penn is bringing in some new faces - or at least new responsibilities - it is on defense. Junior Emily Leitner takes over the reins in goal for the Quakers. While she has appeared in nine games over her first two seasons, her first start this season will be the first of her career. She did come off the bench to pick up the win in Penn's Ivy League Tournament championship over Dartmouth last season, showing she is not afraid of the big stage.
In front of Leitner, a group of veteran defenders who are set to be the primary markers is in place. Three seniors are aligned to provide leadership and poise on defense in Carolyn Pollard, Keely Langdon and Lily Posner. The three combined for 53 appearances last season including 43 starts. Freshman Lydia Miller has also seen action in preseason on defense bringing tenacity and pressure to the back unit.
Miller is one of ten newcomers, a group which includes nine freshmen and a sophomore transfer in attacker Katie Matz. This group is athletic and instinctive as any to come through Penn's program and will be counted upon to make an impact immediately. Nine of the newcomers were high school All-Americans including four multiple-time selections. Midfielder Courtney Tomchik was an All-Tewaaraton Foundation team member in 2010, while Shannon Mangini was a four-time state champion at vaunted Garden City High School on Long Island (which produced teammate Erin Brennan). Allie Martin, a local product from Radnor High school claimed three PA state championships and is expected to bring an athletic look to the midfield and attack.
In all, head coach Karin Brower Corbett has many weapons are his disposal as the 2011 season begins. The firepower will first be on display Saturday, Feb. 26 when Penn opens its season with Drexel at Franklin Field (3 p.m.) in a city rivalry.
The Quakers are 10-1-0 all-time against the Dragons and have won its last four season openers against its West Philly neighbors. While Penn is opening its season on Saturday, the Dragons will be in their third game of the season and enter 2-0 after a 14-9 win at George Washington and a 14-2 win at home over Saint Joseph's. Drexel had an 8-0 lead at halftime on Wednesday against the Hawks and scored the final five goals of the game for the 14-2 win.
Sophomore Alyse Maiden had three goals and two assists in the win and has eight points over the first two games. Junior Charlotte Wood leads the Dragons with nine goals and an assist.