Women's Lacrosse Preps for NCAA Tourney Opener with Virginia

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PHILADELPHIA – For the seventh year in a row, Penn is heading to the NCAA Tournament, starting the 2013 national tournament against ACC foe Virginia (May 10, 3 p.m.) at Georgetown University’s Multi-Sport Field.

The Quakers are owners of the sixth-longest active streak of NCAA Tournament appearances, joined in the elite company by four ACC teams (Maryland – 24, Virginia – 18, Duke – 16, North Carolina – 9) and defending national champion Northwestern (10). Over the last six NCAA Tournaments, Penn is 8-6, and Penn’s nine wins all-time in NCAA Tournament play are 12th among all Division I programs. Friday’s game will be Penn’s ninth appearance all-time in the NCAA Tournament, tying the Quakers with Harvard for 15th-most appearances in the national tournament.

Among the six teams to be in every NCAA Tournament since 2007, Penn is ranked fifth in win with its eight. Friday’s opponent, Virginia, is sixth with a 4-6 record and just 1-5 with four 0-1’s since 2008.

Friday will be the first-ever meeting between Penn and Virginia in women’s lacrosse, though both were at Franklin Field in 2007 for Final Four weekend. Penn was denied by eventual national champion Northwestern in the national semifinals, 12-2, and Virginia would also lose to the ‘Cats, 15-13, in the national championship game. Overall against ACC teams in the NCAA Tournament, Penn is 3-2.

The Quakers have won 11 of their last 13 games heading into the NCAA Tournament, rendering an 0-3 start nothing more than a blip in the rear-view mirror. Penn has scored 144 goals over its last 13 games, giving up only 114. By comparison, Penn is averaging 11.1 goals-per-game since March 9, while its opponents are averaging 8.8. After failing to score more than eight goals in any of their first three games of the season, the Quakers have not scored less than eight since, and have gone under 10 twice – including an 8-7 win over Dartmouth on April 12.

That win over Dartmouth was part of an undefeated Ivy League campaign for the Quakers – the fifth 7-0 Ancient Eight regular season for the Red and Blue since 2007. The Quakers have developed the skills –tangible and intangible – needed to win close games, posting a 4-0 record in overtime games and a 4-1 mark in games decided by one goals. During the Ivy League slate, Penn won three of its games in overtime – including two in a four-day span to secure its seventh Ivy championship.

Ivy League Midfielder of the Year and unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection Shannon Mangini has burst on to the scene as a clutch performer for the Quakers. She has posted a career-high 25 goals this season, and nearly doubled her two-year point total with 28 points in 2013. When the game has been on the line, Mangini has come through. She scored twice in the final five minutes of play to force overtime for the Quakers, and came through with three overtime goals. Her three strikes in extra time this season are the most ever in a single campaign by a Penn player.

Mangini is one of five 20-goal scorers for the Quakers, joined by team-leading scorer Meredith Cain. The senior has 28 goals and 13 assists for a career-high 41 points this year. She enters this weekend ranked 13th all-time among Penn scorers with 114 points and is 11th in goals scored with 86 over her career,

Caroline Bunting enters her final NCAA Tournament on the precipice of the Penn history books as well. Via her career-high 31 points, Bunting sits on 97 career points entering the NCAA Tournament – three points away from becoming the 21st player to crack 100 points for the Quakers. Honorable mention All-Ivy this season, Bunting was named to the All-Tournament Team for the Ivy League Tournament after leading the Red and Blue in scoring with five goals and an assist in two games as the Quakers claimed their second ILT championship.

Freshman Iris Williamson started the season off on fire, scoring four goals in a game on four different occasions to almost single-handedly raise the Quakers out of their doldrums. Since the calendar turned to April, though, Williamson has struggled with injury but she was able to play this past weekend in the Ivy League Tournament and is ready to go this weekend as well. Despite the slow month of April, Williamson still is tied for second in goals on the team with 25 – the most by a Penn freshman since Maddie Poplawski scored 21 in 2010.

Poplawski is tied for the team lead in draws with 44, joined by Cain. Over her career, Poplawski has set a new benchmark for Ivy players on the draw with 176 draw control wins. Along the way, she has scored 78 goals to sit 15th among all Penn players.

Defensively, first-team All-Region selection Meg Markham leads a young group which has risen to the task. Last weekend, each of Penn’s primary defenders was either a freshman or sophomore and Markham was the leader. Named All-Tournament, Markham had three caused turnovers, six draw controls and four ground balls. Overall this season, she leads Penn’s defenders with 14 caused turnovers and is the team leader in ground balls with 30. Along the way, she has added 32 draw controls wins.

Markham clears traffic in front of unanimous first-team All-Ivy goalkeeper Lucy Ferguson. Also a second-team All-Region selection, Ferguson leads all Ivy keepers in save percentage (.472), ranking 10th in the nation in that category. In terms of goals-against average, her 8.65 is second in the Ivy League and 18th in the country.

Virginia enters the NCAA Tournament with an overall record of 9-9. Inside the always-tough ACC, Virginia went 1-4, with all four losses to teams in the NCAA Tournament. Penn and Virginia have four common opponents – Penn going 1-3 against those teams while the Cavaliers went 1-4. Both teams were winners against Princeton, each losing to Maryland, North Carolina and Northwestern.

Sophomore Casey Bocklet leads UVA in scoring with 37 goals and 20 assists. The transfer from Northwestern was All-Tournament at the ACC Tournament with five goals and two assists in two games. Last year with the Wildcats, she tallied 22 assists en route to a national championship.

Junior Ashlee Warner is second on the Cavaliers in scoring with 33 goals and 17 assists. In her first full season – she missed all but one game last year with injury and played just twice in 2011 – Warner has scored in every game but one and has posted four hat tricks.

In goal, Liz Colgan and Kim Kolarik have split the minutes, but with Kolarik’s return from a broken hand the starting job has returned to her possession where it began the year. She is 6-5 in 2013 with a 9.74 GAA and a save percentage of .400. She has played the last three games for the Cavaliers and has gone 2-1 with 26 goals allowed. Maddie Keeshan leads the defensive unit in front of the cage with 17 caused turnovers and 19 groundballs. Courtney Swan has won 70 draws, winning five or more in eight games en route to All-ACC honors.

The winner of Friday’s game between Penn and Virginia will advance to play No. 6 Georgetown in the second round. The Hoyas were runner-up to Syracuse in the BIG EAST Tournament.