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PHILADELPHIA - No. 9 Penn is riding a serious wave of momentum heading into its first Ivy League road game of the season this Saturday at Yale (1 p.m.) as the Red and Blue have won two games in a row - both in extremely different fashions.
After a 15-7 win over Rutgers last Wednesday which saw Penn open a big lead and the shut the door on the Scarlet Knights on the strength of a program-record seven assists from Erin Brennan, the Quakers were the ones who mounted a comeback last time out in a wild win over Harvard. Penn opened the 2012 Ivy slate with a furious rally, erasing a five-goal deficit with under 20 minutes to play, defeating the Crimson, 14-13, in overtime.
The Quakers are among the nation's leading scoring offenses, averaging 13.25 goals-per-game which is 22nd in the country. Brennan leads the way for the Red and Blue, with 21 points in her first four games, which is 51st in the country. However, when breaking down Brennan's performance on a game-by-game basis, she is truly among the country's elite. Brennan is averaging 5.25 points-per-game, ranking seventh in the country and her 3.0 assists-per-game is third among all Division I players.
Caroline Bunting missed the first game of the season, but in her three outings has been almost unstoppable for the Quakers. She has 12 points, with her 4.0 ppg ranking 30th in the country and her 3.33 goals-per-game 20th.
Dynamic is quite an appropriate word when discussing Penn's offense, with five players already with seven or more goals and a pair at the 10-goal mark (Bunting, Courtney Tomchik). As a team, the Quakers have scored 53 goals through four games, and reached at least 14 goals in three of four outings.
In the midfield, Maddie Poplawski has been performing at a top level on all sides of the ball. In addition to scoring eight goals on 11 shots (.727 shooting percentage) and connecting on 5-of-6 free positions, Poplawski has racked up 24 draw controls, ranking fourth in the country in draws-per-game. She has also caused a pair of turnovers and scooped up five ground balls.
Defensively, a young Quakers' contingent is allowing 10.75 goals-per-game, but has twice limited opponents to under eight goals. On Saturday against Harvard, the defense came through when it mattered, holding the Crimson to just three goals in the final 16:23 of game play and causing four big turnovers in the final stretch of play to allow the comeback to happen. Freshman Meg Markham has six ground balls and goalkeeper Emily Leitner has seven ground balls to go with her 28 saves. Seven different players have two caused turnovers for the defense and every player who is part of the defensive seven as at least one.
On Saturday, the Quakers head to New Haven where a 2-2 Yale team awaits. The Bulldogs have wins over Holy Cross (17-13) and Bryant (11-10) with losses to Dartmouth (9-8) and Notre Dame (15-9). Junior Devon Rhodes leads the offense with 12 points, sharing the team lead in goals with eight and pacing the Bulldogs with four assists. Rhodes shares the goal-scoring lead with Caroline Crow, part of a group of five which have at least six goals. Freshman Christina Doherty has acclimated well to collegiate lacrosse, registering three goals and leading the team with 11 draw controls to go with eight ground balls and five caused turnovers. Whitney Quackenbush has started all four games in goal for the Bulldogs, and she has made 22 saves.
The Red and Blue are 16-18-1 all-time against Yale, with wins in the last seven meetings. Last year in Philadelphia, Penn denied the Bulldogs at just about every turn, winning a defensive battle, 7-2. Emily Leitner had five saves in the game, and the Penn defense forced Yale into 11 turnovers. Erin Brennan had three goals in the game, while Maddie Poplawski had two.