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PHILADELPHIA - As the calendar turns to April, the focus for No. 8 Penn turns to preparing for a potential postseason run. The Quakers will get a glimpse into what the postseason could look like this weekend as they host a pair of games, each geared towards priming the Quakers for May lacrosse.
On Friday, Penn hosts a top-ten matchup against No. 3 Maryland (6 p.m.) before a quick turnaround for Sunday's game against Ivy League foe Columbia (1 p.m.) Whether it is to win an Ivy League Tournament title or a NCAA title, Penn will have to win twice in two days at some point this season, and this weekend will give a young Penn squad a look into what it will take to do so.
The Quakers will be squaring off against their third consecutive Top-20 team on Friday night when the Terrapins come to town, and fourth Top-20 team overall. The Red and Blue are 1-2 against Top-20 clubs this season, but won their most recent game at No. 18 Cornell, 11-10.
Maryland native Courtney Tomchik (Arnold, Md.) will play her first game against the Terps Friday night and enters the game as one of five Penn players with 13 or more goals. The quintet of Tomchik (13), Erin Brennan (14), Caroline Bunting (14), Meredith Cain (14) and Maddie Poplawski (15) have accounted for 70 of Penn's 85 goals (82%) this season and provide multiple options on attack for the Red and Blue.
The Quakers will need to continue to find ways to score against Maryland, and do so against the nation's fourth-best defense. The Terps allow just 7.73 goals-per-game. 2011's National Goalkeeper of the Year Brittany Dipper is again one of the top keepers in the country, ranking fifth in goals-against average (7.56) and 14th in save percentage (.493). Expect a goalkeeping battle as the Quakers counter with reigning Ivy League goals-against leader Emily Leitner who is coming off her finest performance in goal for the Red and Blue. At Cornell last weekend, she made a career high 12 saves while leading a defensive corps which featured three freshmen and a sophomore. Leitner is allowing 9.86 goals-per-game and is averaging 7.43 saves-per-game as well.
Leitner will be dealing with a Maryland attack which features All-Americans Karri Ellen Johnson and Katie Schwarzmann. Both are inside the Top-20 nationally in points this season, with Schwarzmann registering 41 and Johnson 40. Schwarzmann has 35 goals, while Johnson has 28 goals and 12 assists.
Friday's game will be the fourth time in the last three years that Penn and
Maryland will meet. The Terps have won the last three meetings and Penn is just 2-16 all-time against the Terrapins. Last year, Maryland had too much firepower for the Quakers, winning a 16-4 game in College Park. In 2010, the Quakers were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by the Terps in the quarterfinals, 15-10. The last meeting at Franklin Field came on April 2, 2010 - a 12-6 Maryland win.
On Sunday, The Quakers will look to keep their hold on first place in the Ivy League against Columbia. Penn is 3-0 inside the Ancient Eight, the only team perfect through three games this season. A win over the Lions will put Penn in prime position to secure a berth to the Ivy League Tournament in May and could clinch a sport depending on results around the League this weekend.
The Quakers are undefeated against Columbia in the all-time series, with a 15-0 record against the Lions. Penn is 7-0 against Columbia at Franklin Field, picking up a 19-7 win on April 4, 2010 in the last game played in Philadelphia.
The Lions are 1-6 this season, and 0-4 inside the Ivy League. The Lions have had issues scoring goals this season, averaging just 8.43 goals-per-game, which is 82nd of the 90 teams ranked in Division I. Kacie Johnson leads the Lions with 19 goals and 13 assists for 32 points. Paige Cuscovitch has 16 goals to rank second on the Lions in scoring while Taylor Gattinella has 11 goals. Amanda Goodhart ranks eighth in the country in caused turnovers, forcing 2.14 turnovers-per-game.
Last year, Erin Brennan scored five goals in Penn's 13-6 win at Columbia. The Quakers bounced back from a tough loss at Maryland as seven different players scored goals for the Red and Blue. Caroline Bunting added a goal and three assists for the Quakers while Emily Leitner made six saves.