PHILADELPHIA--Saturday Penn women’s lacrosse takes its first steps toward trying capture its third Ivy League title. The first challenger, Yale, enters Franklin Field at noon. The game also closes out a five-game homestand Penn enjoyed to start the season.
This season, the Quakers have made it clear they are here to stay. Despite graduating seven starters, including the top two goal-scorers and the two-time National Goalkeeper of the Year, the Quakers seem to be right on par with last year’s numbers. In fact, through four games, the Red and Blue have averaged slightly more goals than last year and have allowed fewer goalsif that is possible.
Junior goalkeeper Emily Szelest learned well from her processor and is carrying on the tradition of superior goaltending at Penn. Likewise, the defensive unit has continued to stymie top attackers. With the opposition throwing out just 47 shots, Penn has scored almost as many goals (44) as its opponents have attempts.
Another boon to the defense is its ability to keep the attack out of formation resulting in a low number of assists the opposition has provided (four on 15 goals).
Turning the focus to attack, several Quakers have stepped in to fill the void. In four games Penn has had no less than four goal-scorers in a game an as many as seven stepping up to put points on the board.
Leading the charge are Courtney Lubbe (11g, 5a), Emma Spiro (9g, 3a) and Ali DeLuca (7a, 1a). Both Lubbe and Spiro have had career games already this season with Lubbe dropping five goals and three assists on UNC and Spiro cashing in for four goals against BU.
And because you can’t win the game if you can’t win the ball, Penn’s draw controls have been key with Spiro pulling 14 and sophomore Giulia Giordano grabbing 10. As a team, the Quakers have out-drawn the opposition 44-22.
For Yale, it has been a season of change. The third coach in as many years, Anne Phillips took the helm of the Bulldogs after six seasons at Franklin & Marshall. She led F&M to an NCAA Championship and was the IWLCA Division III Coach of the Year in 2007, the same season Penn’s Karin Brower was named the consensus Division I Coach of the Year.
Another change for Yale has been a new home, Reese Stadium. While the Bulldogs seemed to have settled in well, christening the stadium with a 7-4 win over UMass earlier in the week, the road has not been friendly. Yale is 1-3 on the road this season with the lone win in a come-from-behind overtime game to open the season.
Historically, Yale has been able to beat up on Penn and holds an 18-13-1 advantage in the all-time series. But since 2005, the Quakers have not lost to the Elis. That means no player on the current Penn roster knows what it is to lose to Yale. Likewise, the current Bulldogs have only heard stories of slaying Penn.
After graduating the bulk of their scoring, including Lauren Taylor (now an assistant coach for Yale), the Bulldogs are looking to Jenn Warden, who leads Yale with 14 goals, Jenna Block (6g, 4a) and Jessica Sturgill (9g, 3a). Last season, Warden provided an assist in a 10-4 loss in New Haven. The 2009 captain of the Bulldogs, Taylor Fragapane scored once in last year’s outing.
In the cage, Yale has opted for the freshman Whitney Quakenbush for four of the five starts this season. She holds a 9.35 goals-against average and made a career-high 14 saves against UMass, holding the Minutewomen to four goals despite a 24-shot onslaught.
The game is the first in a women’s-men’s doubleheader with Yale. The women are slated to begin at noon with the men starting at 3 p.m. Both games will available on a live video stream at PennAthletics.com. Click here for more information.