PHILADELPHIA - A lot is on the line when the Penn women’s lacrosse team makes the journey just up the road to face Princeton Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
How about first place in the Ivy League? And, if you are the Quakers, the knowledge that a win guarantees you a share of this year’s crown at 6-0 with only one league game left (Saturday at Brown) as well as the Ivy League’s automatic bid into the NCAA Championship.
How about a possible top 4 seed in the postseason? Princeton is one of only two Division I programs still unbeaten, at 10-0, and sits second in this week’s national poll behind three-time defending NCAA champion Northwestern. Penn, meanwhile, is 10-1 overall and ranked sixth, but a win over the Tigers would certainly bump up that rating. The significance of a top 4 seed? It gets you home field through the first two rounds of the 16-team NCAA field, leading up to the championship weekend at Towson over Memorial Day.
Finally, there is the matter of history -- lots and lots of history.
The last time Penn won at Princeton, Karin Brower was not coaching the Quakers. Given the Tigers’ success during the last several years, that does not seem inconceivable -- after all, Brower, in her ninth season at the helm, is taking her team to Tigertown for just the fifth time.
However, think about this: the last time Penn won at Princeton, Chris Sailer -- far and away the longest-tenured women’s lacrosse coach in the Ivies -- was not coaching the Tigers.
Sailer became Princeton’s head coach in 1987. The previous year, on April 17, 1986, the Quakers pinned a 16-12 win on the Tigers. (for those of you keeping track, Thursday will mark the 22nd anniversary of that game)
Not that Penn is alone with its lack of success on the Tigers’ turf; take Dartmouth out of the equation, and the last time any other member of the Ancient Eight won at Princeton was 1991, when both Harvard and Brown pulled off the feat.
That makes Wednesday night’s game a daunting task, but the Quakers have history on their side -- recent history.
Last year, of course, Penn got its first win over Princeton since 1993, taking a 14-10 decision at Franklin Field. The year before, the Quakers gave the Tigers all they could handle on Class of 1952 Stadium, losing an 8-7 contest. For the upperclassmen on this year’s Penn squad, there is a palpable feeling of unfinished business in this rivalry.
In addition, after so many years of Princeton’s intimidating presence as a national power, the Quakers can now match their body of work up against the Tigers -- and anyone else, for that matter. After all, take awaya 10-8 lossat Stanford on March 9, and the only other team to beat Penn in its last 31 games -- since the Quakers last played at Princeton -- is Northwestern. Among Penn’s victims during that run? National powers like Syracuse, Maryland, North Carolina...and Princeton. Not many schools can make that claim.
Wednesday night'sgame will televised on a tape-delayed basis (Thursday at 9 p.m.) by Comcast Sports (formerly Patriot 8) -- not to be confused with Comcast SportsNet. Live video will also be available at www.PennAthletics.com.
Some notes to think about entering Wednesday’s game...
Streaking 1 - Penn has won 13 straight Ivy League games since it lost at Princeton in 2006; Princeton has won 12 straight home games.
Streaking 2 - Penn and Princeton enter Wednesday’s game having won a combined 18 games in a row.
No Ivy League women's lacrosse team other than Dartmouth has won at Princeton’s Class of 1952 Stadium, which was opened in 1996.
Penn's 26-3 overall record the last two seasons is second-best in the nation at the Division I level, behind only Northwestern (34-1). Third place on that list is Maryland at 28-5, followed by Virginia at 30-7.
Penn head coach Karin Brower and assistant coach Julie Shaner Young both have ties to the Princeton program; Brower was an assistant coach for Chris Sailer from 1996-98, while Shaner Young played for Sailer from 1998-2001, winning an Ivy title and advancing to two NCAA semifinals during her career.
Both teams have suffered key losses during the season, Penn losing Becca Edwards to an ACL and Princeton losing Katie Lewis-Lamonica to the same fate. Edwards was an honorable mention All-Ivy performer a year ago, while Lewis-Lamonica was first-team All-Ivy and second-team All-America.
Rachel Manson scored her 100th career goal Saturday at Dartmouth, becoming just the fourth player in Penn history to accomplish the feat and the first since Brenda Shaw in 1992. It took Manson 60 games to reach the century mark.
Both teams are using balanced attacks this season -- a quick look at the NCAA statistics yields no Penn or Princeton players in the top 10 of any offensive category. However, Penn goalie Sarah Waxman leads the nation in goals-against average (6.35), while Princeton’s Kaitlyn Perrelle is sixth (7.61).
Although both Penn and Princeton are winning at an alarmingly successful rate, domination has not necessarily been the order of the day. The Tigers are one of only two unbeaten teams left, but are sixth in overall scoring margin (+5.60); the Quakers, meanwhile, boast the fifth-best winning percentage at 10-1 but are 15th in scoring margin (+3.45).
Sister Act - Who do you root for if you are Courtney and Samantha Bird’s parents? Samantha is a junior on the Penn team, while Courtney is a senior on the Princeton team.