PHILADELPHIA - The Penn Relays are being run at Franklin Field Thursday through Saturday this weekend. With the great weather, more than 100,000 fans are expected to attend the three-day event.
They might want to stick around one more day.
On Sunday at 2 p.m., Franklin Field will again be the site of a major event -- this time on the field in the middle of the arena, not the oval surrounding the turf -- when the fourth-ranked Penn women’s lacrosse team hosts No. 1 Northwestern.
The last time these two teams met was last May, in the very same venue. The occasion was an NCAA Championship semifinal, the Penn program’s first. The Wildcats won, 12-2, their second victory of the season over the Quakers (they had taken a 13-4 decision in Evanston, Ill., during the regular season).
Those were Penn’s only losses last year. This year, under 2007 IWLCA National Coach of the Year Karin Brower, the Quakers are 12-1, with a 10-game winning streak since losing 10-8 at Stanford back on March 9. They have already punched their NCAA Championship ticket with the Ivy title, their second straight.
Northwestern, meanwhile, is no longer the cute, cuddly story they were just a few years ago when they began playing as a varsity program (that was only 2002, believe it or not). Under head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, the three-time defending NCAA champion Cats have become a powerhouse -- they are 15-0 this season, 36-1 the last two years, and a ridiculous 77-2 over the last four seasons.
As an added bonus for Sunday, the first 100 fans in the gate will receive a free Quaker Bobblehead.
Some notes entering Sunday’s game...
Northwestern owns a 4-1 series lead, and was the only team to beat Penn last year (once in the regular season, again in an NCAA semifinal).
Going back over the last two years, Penn has a 28-3 record. Only one Division I program has bettered that mark -- Northwestern (36-1, with all 36 wins coming in a row since the Cats opened the 2007 season with a loss at UNC).
Penn has won 16 straight regular-season home games dating back to March 29, 2006, when they lost to Johns Hopkins.
Sunday’s game matches arguably the two top goalies in the nation, Penn’s Sarah Waxman and NU’s Morgan Lathrop. Waxman was the C. Markland Kelly Award winner last year as the IWLCA’s national goalkeeper of the year, while Lathrop was a second-team All-America.
Waxman currently leads the nation in goals-against average (6.13), while Lathrop is second (6.54); in save percentage, Waxman is 12th nationally (.497) while Lathrop is 28th (.472).
Seniors Rachel Manson (24g, 12a) and Melissa Lehman (24g, 8a) lead the Quaker attack. Ali DeLuca, last year’s Ivy Rookie of the Year, is third in scoring (17g, 12a). The defense is anchored by senior Tarah Kirnan and junior Hillary Renna.
Lehman has scored a point in every game this season, while Manson was held scoreless only at North Carolina (3/1). Since she was held scoreless at Dartmouth (4/12), DeLuca has had a five-point game at Princeton and a three-point game vs. Brown.
Freshman Giulia Giordano has scored twice in each of the last two games, has a five-game goal-scoring streak, and has a goal in nine of Penn’s last 10 contests.
Junior Kaitlyn Lombardo has scored a point in four straight games, including four points last weekend vs. Brown.
DeLuca and Waxman were named Ivy League Player and Defensive Player of the Week, respectively, on Monday.
For the Cats -- members of the American Lacrosse Conference (ALC) -- junior Hannah Nielsen (33g, 40a) leads the offense along with Hilary Bowen (54g, 13a) and Danielle Spencer (48g). Three other players have scored more than 20 goals for an offense that is second nationally in goals per game (16.80).
On defense, senior Christy Finch has 50 caused turnovers and 42 ground balls.