Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/22/09
Penn freshman standout Erin Brennan was named this week’s womenslax.com national rookie of the week for the fourth time as her Quakers gear for tonight’s NCAA Division I semifinal (6 p.m.) against four-time defending champion and top-seeded Northwestern at Towson’s Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Brennan’s standout play helped fourth-seeded Penn defeat No. 5 Duke, 10-9, in overtime last week and secure a spot in the 2009 women’s lacrosse final four for the third straight year. No. 2 Maryland (21-0) and No. 3 North Carolina (15-4) will meet in the nightcap at 8:30 with the winners meeting for the national crown Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
During Penn’s quarterfinal matchup last weekend Brennan had two goals and two assists. After Penn (15-2) fell behind late into the second half, Brennan led a strong comeback to tie the game at 9-all, and send the game into overtime, with two assists on the last two goals of regulation. Along with her points Brennan also had a pair of ground balls and three draw controls for the Quakers.
Penn will square off against Northwestern (21-0) for the third consecutive time in the NCAA tourney. The most recent was in last year’s national championship game where Northwestern won 10-6.
The Wildcats’ drive for a fifth-straight national championship will play out in front of a national television audience. Both of the semifinal matches and the championship game will be televised live on CBS College Sports Network. Live stats will also be available at NUsports.com, and WNUR will be traveling with the `Cats to Towson, broadcasting the games live on 89.3 FM and online at sports.wnur.org.
Penn’s dramatic win last week was achieved as Becca Edwards (Springfield-Montco) scored the game-winner with five seconds left in OT.
Known for its stout defense, the Quakers rank first in the nation in scoring defense (5.82 goals per game). Goalkeeper Emily Szelest leads the country in goals against average (5.72), recording 87 saves on the year with a .492 save percentage.
Defenders Hilary Renna and Kaileigh Wright have anchored the backfield for Penn, combining for 36 ground balls and 25 caused turnovers. Offensively, the Quakers have made their mark as well, averaging just under 11 goals a game, led by Ali DeLuca’s team-high 50 points and 36 goals. Emma Spiro has notched 31 goals for Penn, while the trio of Brennan, Courtney Lubbe (Council Rock North) and Edwards have each added 26 goals on the year.
DeLuca has paced the team in caused turnovers (18), with Sprio leading the squad in both ground balls (31) and draw controls (49). Karin Brower is in her 10th year at the helm of the Quakers, compiling a 102-61 (.626) during her time in Philadelphia, and is 115-78 (.596) in her 12 seasons as a head coach.
Northwestern and Penn have become quite familiar with each over the past few years, as Friday’s semifinal marks the sixth meeting between the two schools in the past three seasons. The Wildcats are 6-2 all-time against the Quakers and have won the last two meetings, including an 11-9 victory in Evanston on April 25 behind four goals and three assists from Hannah Nielsen.
The game will be a rematch of the 2008 national championship game, won by Northwestern on the same Johnny Unitas turf. Nielsen tallied three goals and added three assists, while Hilary Bowen added three goals and an assist en route to being named the tournament MVP for the second-straight year. NU has won six of the last seven against Penn, although the Quakers are the last team to defeat the Wildcats, taking an 11-7 decision in Philadelphia in the 2008 regular season finale.