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Women’s lacrosse preview: Penn looks to return to NCAA tournament

Saturday, 25th February 2012

Categories College, Girl's/Women's, Posted 2/25/12
From Press Release

For the past five seasons, Penn has opened its women’s lacrosse season with neighboring Drexel, and each of those five campaigns has resulted in an Ivy League championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. On Saturday, the Quakers look to make it six-for-six as the Red and Blue make the trip west to Vidas Field for a 3 p.m. game with the Dragons.

The Quakers are 11-1 all-time against Drexel, with the lone loss coming in 1993. After one more meeting in 1994, the two teams did not play again until 2007 when the Dragons became Penn’s season-opening opponent.

Since that ’07 meeting which Penn claimed, 12-4, the game has been consistently competitive despite the 5-0 advantage for the Quakers as Drexel is normally playing its third regular season game while Penn is on the field competitively for the first time of the season. That will again be the case on Saturday as Drexel is 2-0 with convincing wins over George Washington (15-10) and Saint Joseph’s (18-10) already this season.

Penn enters its season ranked No. 11 in the IWLCA Coaches Poll and No. 9 in the deBeer Media Poll. After an 11-6 campaign in 2011, Penn returns seven starters for 2012, led by its two senior co-captains, Erin Brennan and Emily Leitner.

The only two seniors on the squad, Brennan and Leitner possess serious pedigrees which include multiple championships, national tournament appearances and a trip to the Final Four during their freshmen year. Brennan has twice been named an All-American from her attack position, including second-team honors last season as she led the Quakers in goals (34), assists (18) and points (52). A storyline to watch all season with regards to Brennan will be her continued ascent up the record books. She enters the season fifth all-time in points (153) and assists (60) and is eighth in goals (93). She is within striking distance of second place in all three categories and should reach those marks if she trends similarly to her first three seasons with the Red and Blue.

Leitner will again lead the defensive efforts of the Quakers from her spot between the pipes. In 2011, she was an All-Region goalkeeper while leading the Ivy League in goals-against average at 8.38 – a number which was fifth in the country. Both Leitner and Brennan were among the 53 players across the country named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List last week.

With just two seniors on the squad, the junior class will be counted on to both provide leadership and contribute on both ends of the field. Meredith Cain started all 17 games last season, and ranked second on the team with 22 goals. A versatile midfielder, Cain was also second on the team in draw controls with 29. Cain will be hoping the offseason did not stop her season-ending momentum as she finished 2011 with 23 points in her final eight games. Included in that run was a career-best four goals in the NCAA Tournament game at Duke.

Cain’s speed in the midfield will be paired with classmate Maddie Poplawski (Springfield-Delco) to form a potent pair in the transition game for the Quakers. Poplawski was honorable mention All-Ivy in 2011, leading the Quakers with 43 draw controls and adding 25 ground balls. Where Poplawski will look to make a jump this season is in the scoring column. After scoring 21 goals her freshman season, Poplawski found the back of the twine just 11 times in 2011. A forceful Poplawski carrying the play to goal adds a different dynamic to Penn’s offense.

Three attackers will be running things up front for the Quakers from the junior class, led by Caroline Bunting. She finished 2011 second on the team in scoring with 30 points, tallying 21 goals – including at least one goal in 15 of 17 games. Aggressive on the check, Bunting caused 18 turnovers while also winning 21 draw controls. Bunting is joined by Kelly McCallion (Notre Dame) and Lizzy Price up front, both players primed to seize their opportunity this season. McCallion scored three goals last season – including twice in the opener against Drexel – while Price saw time in 12 games for the Red and Blue.

14th-year head coach Karin Brower Corbett has a group of nine sophomores back for their second season with the Quakers, including All-Region and All-Ivy defender Lydia Miller. The lone returning member of Penn’s defensive quartet from last season, Miller had 19 ground balls and 16 caused turnovers last season. Tory Bensen came on strong towards the end of last season offensively for Penn, finishing with 14 goals and 17 points. She led all rookies last season with 10 draw controls and posted four multi-point games. Shannon Mangini appeared in 13 games as a freshman, scoring three goals and is expected to progress upward in her second season.

Allie Martin (Radnor) played in 11 games last season as a freshman, and this year will be counted on to patrol the defensive end of the field. Brittany Swanson and Kylie Gauthier battled through injuries during the freshmen seasons, but saw limited game time at the end of the season. This fall and into preseason, both have impressed and pushed for playing time. Carly Churchill will again serve as the backup goalkeeper coming into the season. As a freshman, she saw time in one game between the pipes. One player who will be absent during her sophomore campaign is Lindsey Smith. The hybrid midfielder/defender had seven goals last season, but suffered an injury in fall practice which will force her to miss the entire season.

Corbett will welcome Courtney Tomchik to the squad this season after she missed her entire freshman season with an injury. A two-time All-American in high school, Tomchik was ranked No. 13 in her recruiting class before the injury last fall halted her rookie season before it truly began. A midfielder, Tomchik was an All-Tewaaraton high school player whose speed (she was a high school track champion) should be a nice weapon for the Red and Blue in the transition game.

When a squad possesses just two seniors and seven total upperclassmen, playing time is bountiful for newcomers. Seven student-athletes joined the Quakers this season and are ready to carry the mantle of Penn Lacrosse into a new generation. The area where the freshmen will be counted on most is defense, where as many as three rookies could see the field immediately. Meg Markham, a tall and athletic defender, is an All-American from Long Island whose Manhasset team won three county titles. Taylor Foussadier (Washington Township) is a well-decorated player from New Jersey who named an All-American by ESPN and the IWLCA. Another New Jersey native, Grace Newfrock, was part of a state championship team at Mountain lakes and earned multiple All-American honors.

A pair of teammates from Oak Knoll High School in New Jersey has joined the Red and Blue in Lindsey O’Loughlin and Leah McBride. They were a part of three consecutive New Jersey Prep state championships, while O’Loughlin was twice named U.S. Lacrosse All-American and McBride was a first-team All-State selection and Oak Knoll’s MVP last season. Crissy Gambino is the sixth freshman set for action this season, joining the Quakers after four undefeated high school seasons at Saint Anthony’s. Gillian Raposo, an All-Conference player from Somerville High School in New Jersey suffered an injury in fall ball and will miss the season.

Penn will open its season with a Drexel team which is 2-0 following a 9-8 run last year. The Dragons were 3-4 in the CAA, losing to Towson in the conference semifinals. Charlotte Wood was second-team All-Region in 2011, leading the Dragons with 46 goals and 52 total points. This season, she has scored five goals and has seven points in two games.

Leading the offense for Drexel has been sophomore Amanda Norcini. A CAA All-Rookie Team selection last year, Norcini has eight goals already this year after just 11 all of last season. Alyse Maiden is second on the Dragons right now with six goals after finishing second on the squad with 33 last season. The Dragons have won the turnover battle to begin 2012, causing 19 turnovers and benefitting from 33 total turnovers from opponents to just 20 miscues on their side.



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