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PHILADELPHIA - For the last five years, Penn has held serve in the Ivy League with five women's lacrosse championships and a dominant run of 34 wins to just one loss in regular season games against Ancient Eight opponents.
On Saturday, the quest for a sixth consecutive Ivy title - and eighth overall - begins when the Quakers host Harvard at Franklin Field (noon) as part of Alumni Day for the lacrosse programs.
The Quakers enter the weekend with good feelings on the offensive side of the ball after a 15-7 win over Rutgers on Wednesday night. 14 of Penn's 15 goals came from fluid attacks, with just one free position goal off a Penn stick. The catalyst was undoubtedly Erin Brennan as the senior attacker was constantly finding open teammates for easy goals. Brennan finished the game with seven assists as part of a nine-point evening, setting a new Penn mark for assists in a single game in the process.
Karin Brower Corbett cannot ask for much more from her offensive unit as the Red and Blue have scored 39 goals in three games - averaging 13.0 goals-per-game - and five different players have at least six goals. Brennan is tops among Penn scorers with 17 points (6g, 11a) but teammates Meredith Cain (7 goals), Courtney Tomchik (6 goals in first three collegiate games), Caroline Bunting (6 goals in two games) and Maddie Poplawski (6 goals on as many shots) have defenses picking their own poison when attempting to stymie the Quakers on attack.
The Quakers have twice held opponents to eight goals or less in three games to open the season, with just No. 2 North Carolina able to surpass double figures against the Red and Blue. Emily Leitner has made 21 saves this season - 19 in the last two games combined and has limited Penn's opponents to just six goals on 16 free position attempts. Lydia Miller has two caused turnovers on defense, but has worked to lead a young defense corps as it grows as a group.
Penn is 20-18 all-time against Harvard, with wins in the last 11 meetings. Last season, in Cambridge, Penn extended its streak with a 9-8 win. The game was not decided until Bridget Waclawik scored with 17 seconds left as Penn rallied from a 5-1 deficit. Leitner made seven saves in the win, while Brennan and Bunting each had three points.
The Crimson are 2-1 overall and has wins over Boston University (11-9) and then-No. 13 James Madison (9-8 in 2 OT). Harvard's only loss came to Cornell, 12-6, at home last Saturday. Already at 0-1 in the Ivy League, the Crimson need to regroup inside the League quickly to stay in the hunt for a berth in the Ivy League Tournament.
Three-time All-Ivy selection Melanie Baskind leads a trio of Crimson players with five goals this season, also contributing six draw controls and eight ground balls. Micaela Cyr and Jess Halpern also have five goals for a Harvard offense which has scored 26 goals in three games. Two-time first-team All-Ivy and 2010 Ivy Rookie of the Year has three goals and three assists to start the season. In goal, freshman Kelly Weis is another in a long line of Garden City, N.Y. products to take her talents to the Ivy League. She has started all three games and has made 27 saves with a goals-against average of 8.88.