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PHILADELPHIA - No. 7 Penn has played a lot of games against Top-Ten opponents over the past three seasons - 11 of them to be exact - but for just the first time since April 17, 2010, Penn's Top-Ten opponent will be an Ivy League foe as the Quakers travel to No. 9 Dartmouth on Saturday (12 p.m.)
Both teams are tied atop the Ivy League standings with 4-0 marks against Ancient Eight competition. Overall, the Quakers enter the weekend with a 6-4 record while Dartmouth is 8-2 overall. Penn has fared will away from Philadelphia, posting a 3-1 mark in road games while Dartmouth is 4-0 in Hanover. In fact, the Big Green have won 12 home games in row - the last loss on home turf coming in the 2010 meeting with Penn.
The Quakers won that game, 9-6, opening leads of 3-1, 6-4 and 8-5 along the way. The game was tied three times and featured three lead changes after Dartmouth's 1-0 lead a formula for tight games that has been replicated often in recent years between the two teams. Last year, Caroline Bunting scored with 3:01 remaining in the game to break a 9-9 tie and give Penn the win, its sixth in a row over the Big Green. The last five wins have been especially close in favor of the Red and Blue, with a combined margin of victory totaling just nine goals - three of the five have been one-goal games.
Of the 10 goals Penn scored last year against the Big Green, nine came off the sticks of Meredith Cain (three goals), Erin Brennan, Caroline Bunting and Giulia Giordano (two apiece). Cain's effort against the Big Green in 2011 really kick started her torrid run through the remainder of the season as she scored 18 of her 22 goals from the opening whistle against Dartmouth until the final game of the season. She currently ranks second on the Quakers in goals (19), points (23) and draw controls (30) and is one of many catalysts for the Quakers.
Penn has six players total in double digits in goals this season, and five with more the 16 scores. Every player who has appeared in more than one game on the offensive side of the ball has scored at least one goal and 11 players have multiple goals. Penn will need its balanced offense to gain significant time of possession to negate a Dartmouth defense which ranks 11th in the country in scoring defense, giving up 8.89 goals-per-game.
Goalkeeper Kristen Giovanniello is third in the country in save percentange, stopping 51.6% of shots faced and is sixth in goals-against average at 8.31. Sophomore Bailey Johnson has eight caused turnovers and 11 ground balls on defense for the Big Green, while midfielder Sarah Plumb leads the team with 11 caused turnovers.
A first-team All-Ivy selection in 2011, Plumb is second on the team in goals (24) and first in points (34) while pacing the Big Green with 11 assists. Kristen Goldberg has the team lead in goals with 25 and is second with 32 points - which is a career high in points for the senior midfielder.
The draw control could play a big role in determining Saturday's winner as the two teams enter the weekend just about even on draws. Dartmouth has a slight edge 128-126, but each team has two players over 25 each on draws. Plumb has won 53 draw controls this year to lead Dartmouth and her 5.30 draws-per-game is first in the Ivy League. Right behind her is Maddie Poplawski who is averaging 4.75 draws over her eight games played. If not for two missed games due to injury, it is likely Poplawski would be even with Plumb in total draw. Penn's Cain has 30 total draw wins and is fifth in the Ivy League, while Hilary Smith has 25 for the Big Green.
The winner of Saturday's game as an inside track on the top seed in the Ivy League Tournament, and more importantly - increases its shot at a regular season Ivy League title. The Quakers have had at least a share of five Ivy titles in a row, the 2011 crown split with the Big Green. Nothing can be clinched on Saturday in terms of titles and seeding, but the winner will finally secure a spot in the Ivy League Tournament while the loser of the game also can depending on results around the League.