Women's Lacrosse Hosts Harvard to Start Ivy Tournament

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Schedule of Games
Session I (Semifinals) May 4
#2 Dartmouth vs. #3 Cornell - 5 p.m.
#1 Penn vs. #4 Harvard - 8 p.m.

Session II (Championsip) May 6
Winners of Games 1 and 2 - 12 p.m.

Ticket Information
Session I: Adults $15 Students (College ID or Under 14 years) $10
Session II: Adults $10 Students (College ID or Under 14 years) $5
All Session: Adults $20 Students (College ID or Under 14 years) $10

PHILADELPHIA - For the third consecutive year, the Ivy League Tournament will call Philadelphia home as Penn once again earned the right to host as Ivy League champions.

Penn needed to wait until the end of the regular season to solidify its sixth consecutive Ivy League championship, but the Quakers showed their championship mettle with two wins down the stretch to bypass Dartmouth for the crown. Penn's run of six-straight conference titles is the longest-running stretch in Division I women's lacrosse, with only Fairfield's five MAAC titles within reach. No other conference has had a team win more than two in a row.

For Penn, however, there is unfinished business to attend to. After claiming the inaugural Ivy League Tournament championship in 2010, Penn was denied a repeat last year after an overtime loss to eventual champion Princeton in the semifinals. The Tigers did not qualify for this year's tournament, meaning a new champion will be crowned. More important than the trophy awarded at the end of Sunday's championship game, though, is the automatic berth to the 2012 NCAA Championships which is on the line. Despite a No. 9 ranking entering the week, Penn - and all four teams entered, in all likelihood - know that a win on Sunday is the only way to ensure your ticket to the dance next week.

The Quakers are 8-6 overall, with a 6-1 mark in Ivy League play. Taking on a tough schedule this season, Penn has played eight of the Top-20 teams in this week's IWLCA Coaches Poll, with a 2-6 mark against those opponents. Penn's RPI of No. 14 with the 8-6 record indicates how strong a schedule the Quakers have navigated to a sixth consecutive Ivy League championship. Four of Penn's losses have come to teams ranked No. 7 or higher and all six are inside the top 16 teams ranked this week. Penn's signature win came against No. 10 Cornell - the third seed this weekend at the Ivy League Tournament.

Tournament time is all about taking your game to the next level and not backing down in difficult situations. The Quakers have gone through battles this season, with four games decided by two goals or less - and a 2-0 mark in one-goal games. In postseason play the last five seasons - including Ivy League Tournament and NCAA Championships games - Penn is 10-6 overall and 5-2 in games decided by two goals or less.

In the Ivy League Tournament, Penn is one of two teams to have advanced all three years, joined by Dartmouth. In the nascent history of the Ivy League Tournament, Erin Brennan has been one of the standout performers as she has scored 10 points on six goals and four assists in three tournament games. Her four goals in the 2010 semifinal against Princeton are tied for the most by a player in any game of the tournament.

Despite the loss to Princeton in 2011, Emily Leitner still has history on her side in the Ivy League Tournament as she picked up the win off the bench in the first-ever championship game in 2010. Last year, she made four saves and had seven ground balls against the Tigers. Leitner enters the tournament ranked second in the Ivy League with 2.86 ground balls-per-game and fourth in both GAA (10.04) and save percentage (.427).

Leitner and Penn's defense are allowing opponents to score just over ten goals a game, and Friday's opponent, Harvard, enters the postseason with the lowest scoring offense in the League at 8.87 gpg. The defense which has been categorized as young and inexperienced all season falls under those categories no longer after the schedule played and will be called upon to deny the Crimson and give Penn's offense a chance to build a lead. Taylor Foussadier (11 CT, 12 GB) and Leah McBride (7 CT, 11 GB in nine games) are two freshmen that have played extensively on the defensive side for Penn while Lydia Miller (9 CT, 21 GB, 10 DC) and Allie Martin (7 CT, 15 GB) are sophomores back to the postseason once again.

Meredith Cain has proven over the past two seasons that she can come up big in the postseason for the Red and Blue. In 2010, she scored twice off the bench in the Ivy semis against Princeton and she again lit up the Tigers in 2011 with three goals and two assists. The following week, she scored four goals and added an assist in the NCAA Championships against Duke. Her 27 goals this season rank second on the team as do her 39 draw controls. Classmate Caroline Bunting is one of five Penn players with 20 goals, and has a penchant for scoring a big goal throughout her career.

The glue for Penn this season has often been Maddie Poplawski. In what can truly be described as a breakout year, Poplawski has won 53 draw controls, second in the Ivy League. Adding a powerful drive component to her game, Poplawski has earned 18 free positions this year, and finished an Ivy-leading 12 of them. Her ability to score from up top is what leads the underneath and low post areas open for Brennan, Cain and Courtney Tomchik (23 goals).

Fans should be in for a great game Friday night if the Ivy semifinal is anything like the game Penn and Harvard put together March 10 at Franklin Field. Harvard controlled the first 45 minutes of play, building a 10-5 lead on the Quakers with 16:23 remaining in the game. The Red and Blue did not wilt, however, scoring four in a row to get right back in the game before Caroline Bunting tied it at 12-12 with 1:06 remaining. In overtime, Courtney Tomchik broke a 13-13 tie with her fourth goal of the game with 24 seconds remaining to give Penn a well-earned 14-13 win.

The Crimson are one of the hottest teams in the country entering the weekend, with wins in five straight games and outscoring opponents by a 53-27 margin in those wins. After starting the Ivy season with two losses, Harvard has won its last five League games to qualify for the Ivy tournament, finishing second for the first time since 1994.

Danielle Tetreault leads Harvard with 28 goals and 32 points this season, followed closely by Jenn VanderMuelen with 26 goals and Melanie Baskind with 25. The Crimson rely heavily on 1v1 plays to score, with just 30 assists on 133 goals this season. Freshman Kelly Weis has started every game in goal and has a goals-against average of 7.54 and a save percentage of .484.