Box Score (PDF)
PHILADELPHIA – Earlier this season, a game between Penn and Harvard was a nail biter that needed a big-time rally in the second half and overtime for Penn to defeat the Crimson. This time, in an Ivy League Tournament semifinal, the Quakers were the ones that built an early lead and the Red and Blue never looked back in a 9-5 win.
Penn, the top seed in the tournament for the third consecutive year, advances to the Championship Game for the second time in program history and will again meet Dartmouth in the title tilt. The Big Green, seeded second, knocked off Cornell in the opener of the tournament to set up the rematch of the inaugural Ivy League Tournament which Penn won in 2010.
The tone was set early as Emily Leitner came out of her crease in the first minute to cause a turnover by Jenn VanderMeulen on the first possession of the game. The Red and Blue stormed up the field in transition, and Courtney Tomchik scored 2:17 into the game to give Penn a 1-0 lead.
Tomchik scored again 1:55 later, finishing the first of Erin Brennan’s three assists to give Penn a 2-0 lead. The advantage quickly became three goals as Maddie Poplawski scored unassisted 4:55 into the game for the first of her three points on the night.
After the quick start, things settled down for the next ten minutes in terms of scoring, but not in terms of action. The Crimson won the draw which followed Poplawski’s goal and then took the next six shots of the game over a nearly ten-minute span. Penn’s young defense acclimated itself well to its first true test of the postseason, though, overcoming the loss of Lydia Miller (lower body injury – DNP) to force the Crimson into rushed shots as Harvard saw its first four shots of the game miss the cage completely before Leitner made a save on Melanie Baskind 13:10 into the game. Baskind atoned, however, forcing a Penn turnover on the other end which led to Harvard’s first goal of the game off the stick of Jess Halpern at the 14:07 mark.
That was the only goal of the first half for Harvard, though, as Penn limited the Crimson to four shots over the final 15:53 – with Leitner making two saves and two more sailing high or wide. While that was going on in the defensive third, Penn was adding three more goals to its total to build a 6-1 lead at the half. All three goals came off the stick of Meredith Cain, who is making a name for herself in big-game situations. The junior scored first on a free position with 9:12 left in the half before scoring again with 6:23 remaining. Cain’s third goal of the half came on a play which was very much like the one Penn used to score to start the game. First, Leitner caused a turnover in Penn’s end, which was picked up by Meg Markham and led to Penn transition. The Quakers then sat on offense, using clock until Cain sprung open with 23 seconds to go in the half.
Out of the break, both sides traded missed opportunities as each goalie made a big save in the early moments. Penn, however, got through first on a Poplawski free position 5:31 into the second half. Harvard scored twice to get back to 7-3, both off Baskind shots. With the game getting close, it was
Penn’s senior leader on the offense which stemmed the tide and answered. Erin Brennan finished a Maddie Poplawski pass with 12:22 remaining, regaining a five-goal lead for Penn and allowing the Penn fans to breathe a bit easier.
That insurance was needed momentarily as Harvard again put two on the board, scoring with 8:57 remaining and again with 4:01 to go as the game again became a three-goal affair.
The Crimson pushed the issue from there, forcing a turnover and taking three shots. First, an attempt from Jamie Potter went wide, followed by Leitner’s tenth – and perhaps biggest – save of the night on a Micaela Cyr offering with 2:23 to play. Harvard again caused a turnover before Penn could clear, which led to a Baskin shot that hit the post and led to a ground ball from Shannon Mangini and eventually Courtney Tomchik’s third goal of the game off Brennan’s third assist to close the scoring with 30 seconds remaining.
The Quakers were the model of efficiency, scoring nine goals on 16 total shots (13 on goal) while Harvard mustered just five goals on 27 total shots.
Only four players scored points for the Quakers, but each had three or more.
Leitner made ten total saves for the Quakers, seven of which came in the second half as Penn protected its lead. She also led all players with five ground balls and had the two important caused turnovers which directly led to Penn goals. As a team, Penn was scrappy on the 50-50 balls, with 10 of the 14 players who saw time garnering at least one ground ball.
Notes: The four-goal margin of victory ties the largest in Tournament history (Penn vs. Princeton, 2010) … Penn was 13-for-14 (.928) on clears, which would have set a record for an Ivy Tournament game if Harvard wasn’t 12-for-12 (Dartmouth vs. Cornell, .917 – 2010) … The Quakers join Dartmouth as the only programs with two trips to the Ivy League Tournament championship game … Penn now has the most wins in the Ivy League Tournament with three … Erin Brennan now has 14 points in four Ivy League Tournament games (7g, 7a) … Meredith Cain has 10 points in the Ivy League Tournament (8g, 2a) ... Penn has scored 165 goals this season, eighth-most by any Penn team ... Erin Brennan has tied her career high with 56 points, fourth-most in a single season by any Penn player ... 26 assists for Brennan are a career high, and fifth-most by a Penn player in a single season.