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PHILADELPHIA - In a season of learning experiences for a young Penn team, the lesson after Sunday's 14-6 loss to No. 1 Northwestern is a crucial one if the Quakers are to get to where they want to be this season - eliminate the sloppy plays.
The Red and Blue committed 16 turnovers in the game, with five on their first five possessions, allowing the Wildcats to build an insurmountable 5-0 lead midway through the first half. From that point on, the Quakers played the Wildcats tight and scored six goals.
Once the game settled down and Penn was able to get on the board via a Maddie Poplawski free position goal at the 18:26 mark, Penn had its chances to truly make a game of it. Caroline Bunting scored a free position goal with 3:20 left in the first half to make the score 7-2 in favor of Northwestern, and Penn had opportunities to climb even closer on the next possession. Erin Brennan won the draw control, and the Quakers had two shots to get within four, but Brianne LoManto stopped offerings from Shannon Mangini and Meredith Cain. The Wildcats transitioned upfield after the save on Cain and Kara Mupo scored with 35 seconds remaining in the half to make it 8-2, Wildcats. Brennan almost got one back for Penn right off the ensuing draw, but again LoManto made the save.
In the second half, Courtney Tomchik scored her 16th of the season 2:18 into the period off a pass from Maddie Poplawski to give Penn some life, but Northwestern scored three in a row to pull away for good, 11-3.
Meredith Cain scored for Penn on a free position with 14:30 to play, and the Quakers got back within six on an unassisted goal from Erin Brennan followed by a free position goal from Poplawski with 4:02 to play, but the Wildcats scored twice when Penn vacated the goal to apply pressure on defense for the final margin.
The Quakers had 16 turnovers, but just five were forced by Northwestern. The miscues negated an edge for Penn in draw controls, as the Quakers won 12 to Northwestern's 10. Poplawski, Tomchik and Cain each had three draw controls for Penn while Brennan had one. Last year at Northwestern, the Wildcats had a 19-7 edge in draw controls, and the win in draws was the first time Penn won that category over Northwestern since Penn's 11-7 win over the 'Cats in 2008.
Emily Leitner made seven saves in goal for the Quakers, including four in the first half when Penn needed her to help keep the Quakers in the game. She made three of her saves on free positions, including two in the opening half. Leitner was aided on defense by Poplawski who had two caused turnovers and Lydia Miller who also had two caused turnovers.
Shannon Smith and Erin Fitzgerald each had three goals for Northwestern, with Mupo and Taylor Thornton each adding two. Brianne LoManto had five saves and two ground balls.
The Quakers are now 6-4, with all four losses to teams inside the Top-13 and three to teams ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 at the time. Penn is back at it with a ranked opponent next Saturday, heading to Hanover, N.H. for an Ivy League showdown with No. 10 Dartmouth. Both teams are 4-0 inside the Ivy League and a win on Saturday gives the victor an inside track on home field for the Ivy League Tournament the first weekend in May.