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PHILADELPHIA - After two road games to start 2012, the No. 9 Penn women's lacrosse team finally gets to step foot onto Franklin Field for a game on Wednesday as the Quakers host Rutgers at 7 p.m.
Penn is 1-1 this season, looking to rebound after a 15-6 loss at No. 2 North Carolina on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights are 1-2 overall, and haven't played since an 11-10 win over No. 7 Princeton in double overtime on Feb. 29.
Erin Brennan leads the offense for Penn after two games with four goals and four assists. Her eight points this season have moved her into fourth place all-time on Penn's scoring list with 161 career points and she enters Wednesday's game four points behind Lisa Romig for third. Brennan passed Romig on the all-time assists chart on Saturday, moving into fourth place with 64 career assists. Brennan is now just one helper behind Ali DeLuca's 65 which rank third and seven away from second-place Chrissy Muller.
Brennan is one of nine goals scorers through two games for the Red and Blue, with junior Maddie Poplawski leading the goal scorers with five markers. Remarkably efficient with her shots, Poplawski has scored her five goals on six total shots - and each of her five attempts to reach goal and have found the back of the cage. Meredith Cain has added four goals while Courtney Tomchik and Tory Bensen each have three. Junior Caroline Bunting returned to action on Saturday after missing the opener and scored twice.
Despite Penn allowing 15 goals to UNC on Saturday, Penn's best player on the field was goalkeeper Emily Leitner. She made a career-high 11 saves in the game, including nine in a too-busy first half. Penn's defense has caused just nine turnovers in two games, and needs to force opponents into more unfavorable looks to lessen the pressure on Leitner to make big saves.
Rutgers started its season with a pair of one-goal losses to Temple (12-11) and Cornell (8-7) before the double-overtime win at Princeton. Ali Steinberg is leading a Scarlet Knight offense which is averaging just under 10 goals-per-game with seven goals and four assists to start the season. An All-Region player in 2011, Steinberg had 28 goals last season and led Rutgers with 37 draw controls. Lauren Sbrilli has six goals for the Scarlet Knights, breaking out early in her sophomore season after just 13 as a freshman.
Defensively, Rebecca Alley is a force for Rutgers and will be counted on to halt Penn's attack. She has six caused turnovers and seven ground balls this season and also factors in on the draw with 11 draw controls. Last year, she was named All-Region after 22 caused turnovers and 19 ground balls.
Lily Kalata has played every minute in goal for the Scarlet Knights, and has a 9.61 goals-against average with 25 saves (.455 save %). An All-Region keeper in 2010 and 2011, Kalata scooped up 42 ground balls last year and already has eight this season. Her goals-against average in 2011 was 8.73, just behind Emily Leitner in the national rankings.
Kalata had to make 12 saves in the Rutgers win at Princeton Feb. 29, including six in the second half and one big stop in overtime. Sbrilli was one of three Scarlet Knights with hat tricks in the game, including the game winner 4:41 into overtime.
Last season, Penn defeated Rutgers in Piscataway, 9-6. Seven different players scored for Penn in the game, with Brennan and Bensen each scoring twice. Each of those players had their second goal in the final six minutes of play to break open a one-goal game for the Quakers.
The game will be broadcast live on the Penn Sports Network with Dan Fritz returning for his third season calling the action for the Quakers. He will be joined in the booth all season long by former Penn player Allison Tatios who was a two-time letterwinner for the Quakers. Information on the Penn Sports Network can be found here.