PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania women’s lacrosse team has already laid the groundwork for success. After consecutive winning seasons overall and in the Ivy League for the first time since 1982-83, the Quakers are ready to take the next step in 2006. The Red and Blue beat Yale for the first time since 1988 and took eventual NCAA semifinalist Dartmouth to the wire in a 10-8 defeat last season.
The Quakers begin the season with a two-game homestand, first on Saturday with Monmouth coming to Franklin Field at 3 p.m. and then with cross-town rival Temple on March 1 at 7 p.m.
Although the Red and Blue said goodbye to five seniors, this year’s seniors are ready to fill those shoes. Led by Emily Cochran and Ali Ryan at attack and defensive stalwarts Kate Parker and Lauren McDermott, these seniors are ready to carry the team on their shoulders.
“We should have made the tournament last year,” said Head Coach Karin Brower. “The girls were disappointed, and we will continue to do what we set out to do, which is win the Ivy League and make the NCAA Tournament.
“Everybody here wants to win,” she added. “We all want to put in the hard work that it takes.” She will look to her experienced seniors to lead the way for her team.
The Quakers return just five juniors; however, they all have made contributions in their first two years wearing the Red and Blue. Of the 10 sophomores who came in last year as freshmen, only four saw significant playing time. However, Brower calls them an “athletic group that learned how to play lacrosse last year.” The incoming freshmen go seven-deep, and Brower expects them to push the team and make them better.
This season Penn will look to return to its record-setting form of 2004, when the Quakers outscored opponents 154-130. They return four of their top five scorers from a season ago. Cochran and Ryan will spearhead the offensive attack. Cochran returned last season from knee surgery to tie for the team lead with 24 goals and was named second-team All-Ivy League. Brower calls her “an intense player who wants to win.” Ryan is a dual threat, according to Brower, because of her quick first step to the goal to go along with great hands.
Also contributing to the offense will be junior Chrissy Muller and sophomore Rachel Manson. Muller was the most balanced player for the Quakers last year; her 16 goals and team-leading 13 assists put her third on the team in points. Brower expects Muller to get to the goal more this year like she did during her freshman year when she finished second on the team in goals (24), Manson, meanwhile, tied for the team lead with 24 goals last season. Brower says, “Manson is a true lacrosse player and the most composed shooter on the team.”
Brower will look to youth to fill the midfield position this year. Sophomores Tarah Kirnan and Allison Ambrozy saw a great deal of time last season. Kirnan had 19 ground balls in 12 games as a freshman. Ambrozy scored eight goals and was third on the team in draw controls (16) a season ago. Also looking to contribute to the depth at midfield will be sophomores Kait Farmer, Esther Polgar and Lauren Ahearn. Melissa Lehman and Chelsea Kocis look to contribute after being plagued by injuries last season. Rounding out the midfield will be sophomore Andrea Duggan, junior Caitlin McDonell and senior Blair Soden.
The defense will arguably be the strongest unit of this year’s team, returning all but one starter from 2005 including honorable mention All-Ivy League and All-Mid Atlantic selections Sarah Eastburn and Kate Parker. Eastburn started all 15 games and led the team with 17 caused turnovers and 15 draw controls. Parker, a two-time All-Ivy League honoree, started 14 games last year and was second on the team with 15 caused turnovers.
Also coming back to the defense for the Red and Blue are McDermott and junior Karen Jann. McDermott started every game and led the team in ground balls (33). Jann has started every game she has played in a Quaker uniform; last year, she collected 29 draw controls and scored three goals.
The Quakers lost Liz Lorelli, their most experienced goaltender, to graduation but return senior Karrie Moore and sophomore Sarah Waxman, who will be competing for time in net. Moore is very strong outside the goal, while Waxman brings a vocal presence to the field. Waxman saw a bulk of the time in goal down the stretch for Penn last season. The sophomore led the team in goals against average (8.29), save percentage (.476) and win-loss record (2-1). However, Moore is a veteran, and Brower likes her work ethic and attitude. She believes both have the potential to be stellar in net.
Once again the Quakers will play one of the toughest schedules in the nation.They will travel to Syracuse and Towsonwho were ranked 12th and 13th, respectively, in last season’s final IWLCA pollas well as Ohio State. The Red and Blue’s home schedule is highlighted by defending national champion Northwestern.Penn also will host nationally-ranked Johns Hopkins and Penn State. The Quakers will face an always tough Ivy League schedule including Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton and Yale who all finished ranked in the IWLCA Top 20 last season.
The Quakers hope to build on consecutive winning campaigns and look to take the next step in the Ancient Eight and oust perennial powerhouses Dartmouth and Princeton. An experienced core of seniors who will put the burden to win on their shoulders, a good mix of sophomores and juniors who have potential, and a talented freshman class are ready to make an impact this year as the Red and Blue are primed to make a run at the NCAA Tournament.