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PHILADELPHIA - With the calendar creeping closer and closer to April - the month where teams make their move in women's lacrosse - Penn has two tests waiting this week to close out a three-game homestand. Up first, a date with Vanderbilt (Thursday, 2:30 p.m.) before an Ivy clash with Cornell on Sunday (1 p.m.)
The Quakers have won two in a row, erasing any doubt that the Red and Blue are ready to properly defend their Ivy League championship. After a 0-3 start which led to the Quakers dropping out of the national rankings, the Red and Blue have responded in fine fashion with 26 goals in two Ancient Eight games to jump out to a 2-0 start in the League.
The perfect start to Ivy play as Penn tied with its opponent on Sunday atop the Ivy League standings early in the conference calendar. A win on Sunday will give the Quakers an inside track to the Ivy League Tournament in May and a chance to control their own destiny in the race for a seventh consecutive regular season championship.
Before Penn can contend with Cornell, the Quakers must settle its first-ever meeting with the Commodores. Few teams in the country have taken on the challenging slate Vanderbilt has to start the season. The Commodores are 1-8 overall, and 0-2 in a very difficult ALC. Since downing Kennesaw State, 22-3, on February 10, the Commodores have dropped seven in a row, losses to some of the better teams in the country - Denver, Boston College, Northwestern, Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame and Penn State. Last time out, the Commodores were defeated by the Nittany Lions in State College, 20-14, but before that Vandy had hung tough with three losses to Duke, Louisville and Notre Dame by a combined seven goals.
The Commodores have the nation's fourth-leading scorer in Carly Linthicum who enters the game with 44 total points off 35 goals and nine assists. The senior has already surpassed his totals in goals and points from her first three seasons. She is one of four players with 14 or more goals this season as the Commodores enter averaging 11.22 goals-per-game. The quartet has helped make up for the loss of three-time first-team All-American Ally Carey who graduated last season.
Defensively, the Commodores have three players in double digits in caused turnovers, helping Vanderbilt to an edge in that team stat, 89-82. Brandi Biner leads the team with 14, Kelly Chandler has 2 and Alyssa Dunlap has 11 to pace the defensive unit.
After Thursday's first-ever meeting with the Commodores, the Quakers will take on a team they have played 37 times in Cornell. The Big Red enter this week with a perfect 6-0 record and are up to No. 11 in this week's deBeer Media Poll. Cornell will prep for the Ivy League clash with a trip to No. 3 North Carolina on Wednesday.
The Big Red are one of five undefeated teams left in the country entering this week, including a double overtime win against No. 7 Penn State and a pair of Ivy wins over Harvard and Columbia. The meeting with Penn starts an important stretch for the Big Red where they take on the Quakers, Princeton and Dartmouth in a 13-day span.
Sophomore Lindsey Toppe leads the Big Red - and the Ivy League - in scoring with 33 points on 25 goals and eight assists. She has scored at least three goals in all six games this season, including six goals in a win over Colgate to lead the country in goals-per-game at 4.17. In Cornell's Ivy opener against Harvard, Toppe went for nine points on four goals and five assists. Amanda D'Amico is second on the team with 16 goals while 2012 second-team All-Ivy attacker Caroline Salisbury has 15 goals and five assists. Senior defender Kate Ivory was first-team All-Ivy and second-team All-Region last year, and is off to a similar start with 16 caused turnovers to rank fourth in the nation. Courtney Gallagher has won all six of her starts, posting a 9.66 GAA and a save percentage of .423 with 41 saves.
The Quakers will be ready defensively for their potent opponents this week, entering the matchups with a scoring defense allowing 8.2 goals-per-game which is 18th in the country. In the cage, Lucy Ferguson ranks 11th in the country in save percentage at .487 while she sits 16th in goals-against average at 8.15. After struggling to find the back of the net in their first three games, Penn's attackers have opened up with 26 goals over the last two games. Freshmen Iris Williamson has scored 13 goals, including 10 over the past three outings. Caroline Bunting scored seven points last weekend against Yale, scoring three goals and dishing out four assists.