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PHILADELPHIA – With the non-conference portion of 2014 in the rear-view mirror, No. 9 Penn heads to Hanover this weekend to begin a five-game stretch of Ivy contests to close the campaign. The Quakers (6-3, 2-0 Ivy) will take on a Dartmouth (5-5, 2-2 Ivy) team in desperate need of an Ivy win on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Scully-Fahey Field.
The Quakers sit alone in first place in the Ivy League, but have played two fewer games than the rest of their Ancient Eight brethren. The Big Green enter Saturday part of a three-team logjam in fourth place, tied with Brown and Cornell for the final spot in the Ivy League Tournament – and would be on the outside looking in if the season ended today.
There is much more lacrosse to be played, however, and Saturday’s tilt in Hanover will give the Quakers a chance to re-engage its attack. Penn is averaging 7.88 goals-per-game, which ranks 90th in the country. In their two Ivy games, however, Penn has averaged 10.0 goals-per-game, which is second inside the League.
Tory Bensen shares the team lead in points with Nina Corcoran, each registering 21. Bensen will be looking to get back on the scoresheet after failing to register a point in each of the last two games. Corcoran, on the other hand, is the only player on Penn’s roster to score at least one point in every game this season. Her 11 assists lead the team.
Lely DeSimone has points in eight of nine games this season, and has scored at least one goal in eight of nine contests. She is sitting third on the team with 17 points as a sophomore after going without a point playing primarily as a defensive midfielder last season.
While the offense is figuring things out, a staunch defense has kept Penn atop the Ivy League and among the nation’s elite teams. The Quakers rank 19th in the country in team defense, allowing 8.44 goals-per-game. Penn leads the Ivy League in caused turnovers, forcing 9.56 turnovers-per-game. Meg Markham is the high-pressure defender for Penn, ranking second in the nation in caused turnovers, averaging 2.67 per game. She is also 11th in ground balls, averaging 3.11 per game.
When Markham and the defense isn’t causing turnovers and opponents get shots on goal, Lucy Ferguson is turning plenty of them away. She is one of 12 goalkeepers in the nation to rank inside the Top 20 in both goals-against average and save percentage, sitting 20th (8.20) and 18th (.485) respectively.
Jaclyn Leto has rounded into form for the Big Green of late, leading or sharing the team lead in points in three of the last four games. Over that span, she has registered 18 of her team-best 32 points. Liz Calby is right behind Leto, with 31 points on the strength of 20 goals. Sarah Byrne gives Dartmouth a trio of 20-goal scorers to this point in the season, sitting second on the team with 23.
Kristen Giovanello has played every minute in goal for the Big Green, and she has a .456 save percentage, with 88 saves and a 10.35 GAA. She is seven saves away from becoming the third keeper in Big Green history to reach 500 career saves.
The Big Green have been involved in close games of late, their last four games decided by a combined seven goals and the two most recent being one-goal games. Last weekend, the Big Green travelled to Ithaca and were upended in double overtime by Cornell, 11-10, after scoring twice in the final minute of the first overtime period to tie the game.
Penn has won eight of the last ten meetings between the two teams, and the last nine meetings between the two teams have been decided by three goals or less. All-time in Hanover, Penn is 5-11.