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PHILADELPHIA - With the anticipation of a season-opener in the rear-view mirror, No. 7 Penn gets to the meat of their schedule in a big way on Saturday when the Quakers head down to Tobacco Road and No. 2 North Carolina (3 p.m.) in a early-season battle of national powers.
The Quakers are 1-0 after an 18-8 thrashing of Drexel, while North Carolina is a bit more battle-tested this season. The Tar Heels will be playing their sixth game of the season on Saturday, picking up wins in all five previous contests.
Penn put 18 goals on the scoreboard on Saturday on a windy day against the Dragons, the highest output by a Quaker team since April 25, 2010 against Brown. The last time Penn scored 18 on the road was at Harvard on April 4, 2009.
The Quakers will have a tough time duplicating that scoring effort at North Carolina on Saturday as the Tar Heels have allowed just 34 goals in their five games this season - an average of 6.8 per game. That number ranks 10th in the country, and fourth among teams that have played five games.
The all-time series between Penn and UNC is a young one, with just four prior meetings between the two programs. All of the games have come since 2008, with the Quakers holding a 3-1 edge in the series. Last year, then-No. 8 Penn upset No. 3 North Carolina, 10-7, at Franklin Field. Penn had a balanced attack in the win, with Caroline Bunting, Meredith Cain and Tory Bensen each scoring twice while Erin Brennan, Shannon Mangini, Bridget Waclawik and Giulia Giordano each added one goal. Emily Leitner was huge in goal for the Red and Blue, making nine saves while also causing one turnover and adding a ground ball.
Bunting will return to the lineup for the Quakers on Saturday after missing the opener with injury. The Penn offense, despite its 18-goal effort last time out, will no doubt welcome back Bunting - who was second on the team with 30 points in 2011 - as they take on a fast Tar Heel defense.
Bunting will rejoin her junior classmates who started the season in fine fashion on Saturday as Maddie Poplawski and Meredith Cain combined for seven goals and 12 draw controls for the Quakers. Poplawski had nine of those draw controls, and she enters the weekend ranked No. 2 in the country in draw-per-game. Poplawski was also 4-for-4 on her shots against the Dragons, including two free position goals. She scored just 11 goals all of last season, and is already nearly halfway to that total after one game. Cain scored three goals against the Dragons, giving her at least three goals in her last four games played dating back to last season.
North Carolina has three of the top-ten goal scorers in the nation entering the week, including sophomore Abbey Friend (2011 ACC Rookie of the Year) who is second in the country with 19 goals. Kara Cannizzaro (14 goals - eighth) and Laura Zimmerman (13 goals - tenth) give the Heels a potent three-headed monster for Penn's defense to deal with. The Tar Heels have just 20 assists on their 47 goals this season, utilizing the fast break and outstanding team speed to score on the fly. Becky Lynch is a playmaker to watch for the Heels, though, with six assists and 10 total points. Lynch, a senior from Garden City, N.Y., was a high school teammate of Erin Brennan and Shannon Mangini and her brother, Justin, was an All-Ivy men's lacrosse player at Penn who graduated in 2010.