Category Archives: Women's Lacrosse

Championship Sunday: One afternoon, two teams, two titles

With Penn’s women’s lacrosse and softball teams both playing one game at home for their respective Ivy League championships – just an hour apart – I went to campus to watch both games and chronicle the experience. It turned out to be a very good day for the Quakers. Here’s what transpired:

12:00: “I’m going to be doing a lot of banging,” a father of one of the Penn players informs me as the lacrosse game begins. “You might want to move up a row.” I keep my seat and the Franklin Field bench indeed begins to shake beneath me. I don’t mind. Lacrosse fever, baby!

12:02: People are still settling in when Penn scores its first goal of the game – the 16th of the year from Maddie Poplawski.

12:06: Lucy Ferguson makes the first of her eight saves on the day. “She’s amazing,” someone in the crowd says of the Penn goalie that would soon earn quite the amazing honor.

12:07: Ferguson can’t save a shot from Dartmouth star Hana Bowers, who nets her 46th goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1. It would be the last time the game is tied and the last time the Big Green would score that half.

Dartmouth was no match for Penn goalie Lucy Ferguson (courtesy of Penn Athletics)

Dartmouth was no match for Penn goalie Lucy Ferguson (Penn Athletics)

12:18: Two straight free-position goals – from Caroline Bunting and Courtney Tomchik puts Penn up 3-1 as the crowd goes wild. The Penn fan that leads the cheers with a bullhorn after every goal gets a friendly suggestion to take a sip of water to preserve his voice. He grabs his 24-once Wawa coffee and takes a sip of that. I guess that works, too.

12:30: After a couple of more big saves from Ferguson, Penn goes up 4-1 on the 21st goal of the season from Iris Williamson.

12:43: Penn completes a dominant first half with a Bunting goal with just 11 seconds remaining. It’s 5-1 at the halftime break but the Quakers know they can’t rest easy. In last year’s Ivy championship, they held a 3-1 lead at halftime before watching Dartmouth celebrate on their own field.

Penn's Caroline Bunting shook free of Dartmouth defenders all day (photo courtesy of Penn Athletics)

Penn’s Caroline Bunting shook free of Dartmouth defenders all day (Penn Athletics)

12:59: Penn picks up right where it left off, opening up a 6-1 lead early in the second half on another Poplawski goal.

1:02: Around the same time Dartmouth slices a little bit into the lead to make it 6-2, the Penn-Dartmouth softball championship begins over at Penn Park. I start following that game on Twitter.

1:07: Penn calls a timeout after Bowers scores to make it 6-3. The people dressed in green are starting to make a little more noise.

1:09: Over the loudspeaker, it’s announced that Yale beat Princeton in the Ivy League men’s lacrosse championship but there aren’t any cheers. Come on, Penn fans – where’s the Princeton hate?

1:11: After Penn goes up 7-3, I get a high-five from the fan with the bullhorn, who I find out is defender Meg Markham’s dad, John. I asked how he got the role of head cheerleader. “I’m loud and they gave me this,” he said, pointing to the bullhorn. Makes sense.

John Markham is the man with the bullhorn for women's lacrosse games

John Markham is the man with the bullhorn for women’s lacrosse games

1:16: Bunting gets her hat trick to put Penn up 8-3 with a little under 20 minutes remaining. Things are looking good at Franklin Field but not as good at Penn Park, where Dartmouth opened the scoring with a run in the top of the first.

1:22: Dartmouth is going to have nightmares about Bunting, who scores her fourth of the game to extend Penn’s commanding lead to 9-3.

1:30: Dartmouth is making a little noise on both fields, scoring two straight goals to shave Penn’s lead to 9-5 while increasing its advantage at Penn Park to 2-0 through one-and-a-half innings.

1:35: The lacrosse game is starting to get pretty physical with an increasingly desperate Dartmouth team committing three straight penalties. But Penn makes the Big Green pay when Meredith Cain burying a free-position goal following one of them. Meanwhile at Penn Park, the Quakers slice Dartmouth’s lead in half on a Georgia Guttadauro RBI single in the second inning.

1:45: Dartmouth again scores two straight goals. But with Penn leading 10-7 and just five minutes left, the Big Green are running out of time.

1:48: Bunting forces a key turnover and Ferguson makes a big save as the Quakers begin to clamp down to protect their lead and run down the clock.

1:53: With fans counting down the final seconds, the final whistle blows and Penn celebrates its 10-7 win in the middle of the field. The win assures the Quakers a spot in the NCAA tournament for a whopping seventh straight year. Later, they’ll find out they draw Virginia in the first round Friday.

1:55: As is their custom, the Penn players sing “The Red and the Blue” in front of their fans. The Dartmouth players quickly try to scamper out of the stadium but reluctantly stop halfway down the track for the trophy ceremony.

After doing some celebrating, the Penn players do some singing

After doing some celebrating, the Penn players then did some singing

2:00: The all-tournament team is named with Bunting, Cain, Markham and Poplawski all earning a spot and Ferguson being named most outstanding player. Chants of “Lucy” can be heard all across Franklin Field, right before all of the players go to receive their championship trophy.

Everyone wants to touch the the championship trophy

Everyone wants to touch the the championship trophy

2:04: With one championship down and one to go, I begin the long, arduous journey from Franklin Field to Penn Park to catch the end of the softball game.

2:08: Just as I’m completing the arduous journey, I see a ball fly over the fence and notice that Penn is now leading 3-2. The fourth-inning solo home run, I find out, was belted by Kayla Dahlerbruch. And it came after Penn tied the game on a Dartmouth error.

2:20: Penn clings to its 3-2 lead after ace Alexis Borden wiggles out of a jam in the top of the fifth, getting a strikeout to end the inning.

2:38: Still leading 3-2, Penn escapes another big jam, thanks to a clutch play to catch the lead runner at third on a sac bunt with runners on first and second and nobody out. Some Penn fans are shaking bottles filled with coins to celebrate. Is this a softball thing?

Is there a better place to watch a game? That skyline never gets old.

Is there a better place to watch a game? That skyline never gets old.

2:46: On her next at bat following the home run, Dahlerbruch gets hit in the head with a foul tip but shakes it off with a smile on her face. Penn still can’t get any more runs though as the game shifts to the seventh – and final – inning.

2:51: Looking for her second win in as many days, Borden retires the first batter of the inning on a lineout. Two more outs until Penn’s first Ivy League softball championship since 1981. Fans are standing and cheering every strike.

2:53: Strikeout. One out until the title. “Don’t say anything,” one fan warns. “It’s not over,” another one screams. Gotta love baseball/softball superstition.

2:55: A slow grounder to second … and it’s over! About an hour after one Ivy League championship, Penn wins another. You can watch the final out and some great fan reactions below.

2:57: Head coach Leslie King gets the Gatorade shower – only it wasn’t Gatorade. “Thankfully, it was water,” she’d say later, her shirt almost completely dry. “Last year it was blue Gatorade.”

3:05: Standing in a row, the Penn players pass the trophy down the line. One fan helpfully calls out, “Don’t drop it.”

For the first time since 1981, the word "Pennsylvania" will be inscribed on this trophy

For the first time since 1981, the word “Pennsylvania” will be inscribed on this trophy

3:06: I see Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky watching the celebration and ask him if Penn has ever won two Ivy League championships at home in the same day before. Off the top of his head, he thinks it might be the first. It’s later revealed that this marks the first time two Penn women’s teams earned NCAA tournament bids in the same day.

3:09: The softball team sings the second “Red and the Blue” of the day. The song definitely sounds better after a win.

Heeding the words in the dugout

Heeding the words in the dugout

3:17: With players still smiling and taking pictures with their friends and family, I talk to Dahlerbruch about her game-winning home run. She said her dad has the ball. She’s going to keep it.

3:25: I talk to King about capturing her first title at Penn. Like all good coaches, she credited her senior class but admitted she was nervous during the final two innings as she was “counting down the outs.” As for the upcoming NCAA tournament, King said, “We’re going to go to some beautiful stadium somewhere and play some high-quality team and we’re looking forward to the challenge and the experience. We’re really going to enjoy the ride.”

3:30: I leave the softball stadium. All of the players and parents are still on the field, not wanting the moment to end.

The team that broke the 32-year title drought.

The team that broke the 32-year title drought.

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Filed under Softball, Women's Lacrosse

Championship weekend comes to Penn

lacrossesoftball

 

This is getting to be a yearly tradition.

Last year at this time, Penn hosted the Ivy League women’s lacrosse tournament, the track and field Heptagonal Championships, and a one-game playoff for the softball division title.

This weekend should be just as fun.

For the fourth straight year, Penn will host the Ivy League women’s lacrosse tournament with Princeton playing Dartmouth on Friday at 4 p.m. and the Quakers, led by recently named Ivy League Midfielder of the Year Shannon Mangini, facing Cornell at 7 p.m. at Franklin Field. Both of those games are semifinal contests.

The next day, Penn hosts the Ivy League softball championship series for the first time ever, as the Quakers, who won the Ivy South Division with a 16-4 record, take on North Division champ Dartmouth in a Saturday doubleheader at Penn Park starting at 1 p.m.

Since it’s a best-of-three series, if the two teams split Saturday, they’d play again on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Penn Park in a win-or-go-home battle for the league title – and automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

Meanwhile, if the Penn women’s lacrosse game wins its semifinal game on Friday, it would also play in a championship game on Sunday – at noon.

That means that on Sunday, you might be able to watch Penn win a women’s lacrosse Ivy championship at around 2 p.m., leave Franklin Field, make the very short walk to Penn Park and see the softball team win a league title possibly within the next hour or so.

What do you think, Quakers? Two championships in one afternoon?

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For Penn women’s lacrosse, a special evening at Franklin Field

What’s the only thing better than winning a championship? Doing it by beating Princeton. What’s the only thing better than that? Doing it at home.

And so it went Wednesday evening at Franklin Field as the Penn women’s lacrosse team came from behind to top the rival Tigers, 10-9, in overtime to capture at least a share of the program’s seventh consecutive Ivy League title.

Yes, seven. That’s a record for any women’s program at Penn and matches Harvard’s teams from 1987 to 1993 for the longest run of Ivy women’s lacrosse titles in league history.

Because of the win, Penn will also host the Ivy League Tournament on May 3 and May 5 for the fourth straight year. And from there, the Quakers will look to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the seventh straight season.

But before we look ahead at future milestones, let’s take a look back at Wednesday’s memorable win, a game that I was happy to watch live. Here are some highlights, from the first whistle to the last:

      • As the game begins, it’s hard not to notice the huge Ivy League championship banners (for 1980, 1982, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012) hanging on one side of Franklin Field. When will the next one be added?
      • Princeton’s first possession lasts nearly five minutes but Penn manages to fight it off without giving up a goal. Maybe the Tigers are trying to take a page from their men’s basketball team’s book. Penn head coach Karin Brower Corbett would later mention this defensive stand as one of the game’s key moments, saying, “I was really glad to see my team really make them work for goals.”
      • Princeton goes ahead 2-0 but Penn ties it up on goals from Meredith Cain and then Caroline Bunting. Get used to these little comebacks. And Bunting’s name.
      • Who needs mascots when you have a Princeton fan dressed in a Tiger suit?

        Just a Princeton fan minding his own business.

        Just a Princeton fan minding his own business.

      • With 13:51 to go in the first half, Penn senior Maddie Poplawski sets an Ivy League record for draw control with her 164th. She’d later remind everyone just how good at winning draws she is.
      • In the final minute of the first half, Princeton’s Liz Bannantine shoves Courtney Tomchik to the ground, prompting one Penn fan to say, “They’re playing football!” and another to scream, “It’s not hockey!” This is turning into quite the Penn-Princeton battle.
      • Penn ties it up at 5-5 with 27:21 left in second half with a goal from Shannon Mangini (remember that name too) and then again at 6-6 on a Bunting goal with 24:39 left.
      • After Penn goes up 7-6, Princeton reels off three straight goals, including the Tigers’ third unassisted free-position tally (if you’re unfamiliar with lacrosse, think a penalty shot in soccer).

        The Quakers return to the bench after a second-half timeout.

        The Quakers return to the bench after a second-half timeout.

      • Despite trailing by two down the stretch, the Penn bench seems to be upbeat and optimistic. Perhaps they knew something the rest of us didn’t.
      • Bunting and Mangini score to tie it up at 9-9 with five minutes left. Game on.
      • Princeton tries to hold the ball for the last shot after earning possession with two-and-a-half minutes left but Penn goalie Lucy Ferguson makes a save in the final seconds to send the game to overtime.
      • Who needs cheerleaders when one Penn fan has a bullhorn and four others spell the letters P-E-N-N after Quaker goals?

        Pretty good Penn spirit, huh?

        Pretty good Penn spirit, huh?

      • In the first of the two three-minute overtime periods, Penn wins the draw (which is very important in OT) but Mangini can’t take advantage of two free positions and Princeton can’t get a shot off at the other end. It’s still 9-9 going into the second overtime. “There’s a sense or urgency but you also have to have a sense of patience, because there is a strategy to the overtime,” Mangini later explains.
      • Penn wins the draw again (Poplawki!) and this time Mangini scores a free-position goal after a Princeton penalty to put the Quakers up 10-9 with 2:16 left. “She just had an awesome night,” Brower Corbett would say of Mangini.
      • With “Defense” chants raining down from the Franklin Field stands (the Penn parents were very loud and very involved all night), the Quakers preserve their lead, thanks to a big Ferguson save with 35 seconds left. “I wasn’t nervous,” Ferguson says. “Every overtime game we’ve been in, we’ve won, so I was confident our defense would do a good job and if they would get a shot off, it would be a bad one.”
      • After the final whistle blows, the Quakers celebrate and then line up in front of their fans for their tradition of belting out “The Red and the Blue.” From winning to singing.

All in all, it was a very fun night at Franklin Field. And while Brower Corbett preferred to talk about this particular game and the next one at Brown on Saturday – “We want to win [the Ivy League title] outright,” she noted – she eventually put the streak of championships in historical contest.

Her final words to reporters: “It’s kind of unbelievable, really.”

Yes, it is.

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Perfection, (brief) disappointment at Penn Park over the weekend

I arrived at Penn Park on Saturday afternoon, hoping to catch the last couple of innings of the Penn softball team’s one-game playoff for the Ivy League South Division title vs. Cornell.

As I walked down the ramp from the north side of the park, I heard over the loudspeaker that it was the seventh inning. Quickening my pace, I saw from a distance one quick out … then another … then another.

And then I heard three words sacred to anyone who follows baseball or softball.

… A perfect game …

Yes, in one of the biggest games in program history, Penn freshman phenom Alexis Borden did not allow a Cornell runner to reach base, retiring all 21 batter in a 4-0 win that propelled the Quakers into next weekend’s Ivy League Championship series against host Harvard (where they will be going for just their second Ivy title ever and first since 1981).

Below are two videos, courtesy of Penn Athletics, of the final out and Borden talking about her accomplishment.

About 24 hours later and right next door, I was there for the entire Ivy League women’s lacrosse championship pitting the host Quakers against Dartmouth at Dunning-Cohen Champions Field, one of the turf fields at Penn Park.

At first, it looked as if Penn might add to the perfection of the weekend as they held Dartmouth scoreless for all but the entire first half (a serious accomplishment in a sport that’s very high-scoring).

But the Quakers lost the momentum and couldn’t get it back as the visiting Big Green scored six unanswered goals en route to a 6-4 win.

Despite the upsetting loss, though, Penn was rewarded for its sixth consecutive regular-season Ivy title, strong strength of schedule and rout of Harvard in the Ivy semifinals at Penn Park when it earned an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament later that day.

The trip will be Penn’s sixth straight to national tournament and it begins next weekend at Loyola (Md.).

All in all, it was a pretty good weekend at the new Penn Park – which, in addition to its charm and beauty, can now call itself the home of champions.

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Penn’s action-packed sports weekend

As far as sports weekends go, it’s hard to imagine too many being bigger than this one for Penn athletics. Want to head out to campus to take in some of the action? Here’s a look of what’s on tap:

Women’s Lacrosse – Ivy League Tournament

Friday and Sunday, Dunning-Cohen Champions Field at Penn Park

For the third straight year, the Quakers will host the Ivy League Women’s Lacrosse Tournament, earning that right by finishing atop the league standings to capture their sixth straight Ivy championship. Incidentally, Penn has hosted this tourney (which determines the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament) all three years of its existence.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the tourney is that the games will be the first played by a varsity team at the synthetic turf field at Penn Park, which is primarily used as a practice facility. The reason for this is the team’s normal home at Franklin Field will be occupied by track and field (see more below).

As the top seed, the Quakers open with fourth-seeded Harvard on Friday at 8 p.m. Should they advance, they’ll play the Dartmouth-Cornell winner Sunday to become the second Penn team this spring to win the Ivy title. (The men’s golf team won in thrilling fashion last weekend.)

Track and Field – Outdoor Heptagonal Championships

Saturday and Sunday, Franklin Field

Just one week after Penn Relays, Franklin Field will be filled with elite athletes again as the seven other Ivy League teams join the host Quakers for Heps.

Last year the Quaker men finished in seventh place at the outdoor championships meet but Maalik Reynolds claimed the high jump title with the second-best jump in Heps history. Now a sophomore, Reynolds will look to defend his title, as will Penn’s 4×800 relay team, which took first at last year’s meet.

On the women’s side, junior Morgan Wheeler and junior Jillian Hart are among the favorites to win Heps titles in the javelin and pole vault, respectively, while the Quakers’ 4×100 relay team of Gabrielle Piper, Paige Madison, Leah Brown and Emily Townsend should also have a good showing.

Softball – One-Game Playoff for South Division Title

Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Penn Park

For the first time in conference history, there will be a one-game playoff to determine who plays in the Ivy League Championship Series. Penn and Cornell will do the honors after finishing tied atop the South Division with 15-5 records. Both teams set up the showdown after concluding the regular season with four-game weekend sweeps. The winner of the matchup will face North Division champ Harvard the following weekend.

Cornell has won the last three South Division championships, while Penn is going for just their second division title in program history. But the upstart Quakers (32-15) have already taken three out of four from Cornell this season and boast perhaps the best pitcher in the league in Alexis Borden.

Borden, a freshman, leads the league in earned run average (1.39) and wins (23). The Penn offense, meanwhile is led by reigning Ivy League Player of the Week Brooke Coloma (who is second in the league with 34 RBIs) and freshman Sydney Turchin (who leads the league with 36 runs scored).

Penn Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Saturday, The Inn at Penn

Away from the fields where Penn’s current athletes are competing for championships, some past champions will be honored in this invite-only, black-tie event.

The eighth induction class features Diana Caramanico W’01, LPS’11 (women’s basketball), Debra Cencits Donnally NU’81, GNU’83 (field hockey/women’s lacrosse), Tim Chambers C’85 (football), Willis N. Cummings D’19 (track/cross country), Melissa Ingalls C’90 (women’s volleyball), Bruce Lefkowitz C’87 (men’s basketball), Robert Levy C’52 (special award), Timothy Ortman C’01 (sprint football/wrestling), Joseph Sturgis, Sr. C’56 L’59 (men’s basketball), Paul Toomey C’77 (men’s soccer), John Tori C’54 (men’s fencing) and Bob Weinhauer (men’s basketball coach of the famed 1979 Final Four team).

It’s a pretty impressive class to be sure, and we’ll have more on these Penn greats following the induction ceremony.

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Filed under Hall of Fame, Softball, Track and Field, Women's Lacrosse

Senior Spotlight: Giulia Giordano

A day after playing her final lacrosse game at the University of Pennsylvania, Giulia Giordano experienced an even deeper sense of finality: she walked at commencement. Those two experiences, back-to-back, may have been overwhelming for the now Penn graduate, but it’s what happened leading up to then that defined Giordano’s experience at Penn. As a very good player on the women’s lacrosse team – she finished her career with 127 career points (79 goals and 48 assists), which ranks 10th on the program’s all-time scoring list, and just today was named first-team all-region by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association – Giordano helped Penn rise to national prominence. In Giordano’s first three years, Penn advanced to at least the NCAA quarterfinals. And this season, despite graduating many program stalwarts, the Quakers returned to the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Duke in the first round on May 15 (a day before commencement). As we like to do with our Senior Spotlight posts, the Gazette caught up with Giordano to talk about her experiences at Penn, both at Franklin Field and away from it, and her thoughts on graduation:

On what it meant playing lacrosse for Penn: “I can’t imagine being at Penn without lacrosse. It was such a great experience. I’ll have these friends forever.”

On her decision to come to Penn: The Moorestown, N.J. native originally planned to go to college far away from home, much like her sister, Cara, who had a very good lacrosse career at Vanderbilt. But she was swayed after Penn head coach Karin Brower Corbett came to her house and later when she toured the campus. “After visiting a couple of other schools, I realized I wanted a city school. I loved there was a campus but still a city environment. That’s Penn’s big selling point.”

Time devoted to lacrosse over the past four years: In season, about six hours per day. In the offseason, about four. “It’s definitely hard because you’re constantly going back and forth to the field in the fall.”

Favorite part about college lacrosse: The traditions with the team, even when those “traditions” that are made up on the spot. Before the game against Princeton in the Ivy League Tournament, for instance, “we turned the lights off and we’re just dancing in a huge circle. It was so spontaneous.”

Best lacrosse moment at Penn: Beating Northwestern in 2008, her freshman year. At the time, Northwestern was ranked No. 1 in the nation and had not lost in 36 straight games. (Penn, though, later lost to them in the NCAA championship game.)

On playing in the NCAA tournament all four years: It was certainly exciting and rewarding, especially qualifying for NCAAs this season, a feat no one thought a depleted Penn squad could accomplish. “We were definitely disappointed we didn’t get as far as we have been but we beat some really great teams this year. I’m proud of our team. The class before us was amazing and we lost of great players. We were young this year but I feel like some of the girls really developed. I was happy to be a part of it and I can’t wait to see what they do in the next couple of years.”

Giordano became the 10th all-time leading scorer at Penn this season -- which was news to her

On entering the Penn record books: “I didn’t even know that. That’s really awesome. I love how Penn takes its tradition so seriously. It’s an honor.”

Funniest lacrosse moment at Penn: We all knew Ali DeLuca, Penn’s All-American star who graduated last year, could play lacrosse very well. Apparently, she could also dance, as she showed before the 2010 Ivy League Tournament. “Ali put all of her Ivy League championship rings on and played the Beyoncé song Single Ladies and did the whole dance.” DeLuca’s message was that the Quakers needed a fourth Ivy championship ring – which they got.

Favorite Ivy League team to play: Princeton because of the rivalry and Dartmouth because “everyone picked them to beat us this year.” Penn, though, defeated the Big Green.

Favorite part of Penn away from Franklin Field: Being a part of the sorority Alpha Chi Omega and the Friars Senior Society both opened a lot of doors.

Favorite sport besides lacrosse: To watch, football. “My family is all huge Eagles fans.” To play, field hockey. Before coming to Penn, she was a star play for Moorestown High.

Favorite class: French. She studied the language at different levels every year.

Favorite campus eatery: Distrito

Thoughts on graduation: Losing an NCAA tournament game the day before graduating was a difficult experience, but walking in commencement beside many friends and teammates helped dull the pain. Plus, she loved Denzel Washington’s commencement speech. “Graduation was pretty amazing. The loss was sad but we didn’t mourn over it.”

Future plans: For now, she’s back in her New Jersey home, taking some time to rest and relax because “lacrosse was sort of like a job. My parents are giving me a little leeway on that.” After a few weeks though, the sociology major plans on “getting serious” about applying for jobs in marketing and sales. One more thing: “I loved the girls I live with, but I’m excited to finally be in a clean house.”

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For Penn lacrosse programs, success breeds succees

Penn men’s lacrosse coach Mike Murphy knew it was possible for his team to ascend to the top of the Ivy League and become a national power.

For proof, he didn’t have to look very far. On the very same field his team plays on, the Penn women’s lacrosse team has been paving the path.

“Our sports are pretty different,” Murphy told the Gazette, “but what they really showed us is that you can be great here at Penn. You can be an Ivy League champion here and you can win at the highest level. It gave me a great deal of optimism and hope.”

Tonight, both teams begin play in their respective Ivy League tournaments with the women’s team gunning for their fifth straight league crown and the men’s squad entering the four-team field fresh off matching its highest regular-season finish since 1989.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Murphy said of the success of both programs. “They’re further ahead of us in the process. It would be neat to have both teams win Ivy championships in the same year and make a run in the NCAA playoffs.”

The Quaker women (11-4 overall, 6-1 Ivy League) are used to doing just that, as they’ve made four consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, which included three straight runs to the national semifinals from 2007-09. This year, the team earned the top seed in the second annual Ivy League tournament while remaining nationally ranked throughout the season. But Penn did see its 34-game Ivy League winning streak snapped by Princeton earlier in the season.

The Quakers will try to get their revenge when they host Princeton tonight at 7 p.m. in the semifinals of the league tourney. Should they win, they’d move on the league title game Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Franklin Field against either second-seeded Dartmouth or third-seeded Harvard.

Meanwhile, the Quaker men (8-5 overall, 4-2 Ivy League) travel to Ithaca to take on third-seeded Harvard at 5 p.m. Fourth-seeded Yale and top-seeded Cornell square off in the other semifinal with the winners playing in the title game at noon.

While the league is loaded this season and Penn is new to the postseason party, the Quakers have every reason to believe they can win an Ivy title and gain the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament field.

Penn’s schedule this season, after all, already included teams currently ranked second (Cornell), seventh (Duke), ninth (Virginia), 10th (Villanova), 11th (Bucknell), 12th (North Carolina), 17th (Harvard) and 20th (Yale) in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Poll. They went 4-4 in those games, including a season-opening win over the defending national champs, Duke.

“Guys worked harder and we got a lot of return investment on that first game,” Murphy said. “We built on that and got where we are now. It validated all the work we did in the fall and winter.”

For Murphy, the program’s turnaround from last place in the league last season to second place this season is not too surprising. The second-year head coach believed good things would happen if he built a cornerstone of defense, commitment and discipline. And like women’s coach Karin Brower Corbett has been able to achieve, he knew he’d be able to reel in big-time players – like starting freshman goalie Brian Feeney, for instance – by helping student-athletes realize great academic schools like Penn are the ticket to success since there are few lacrosse opportunities after college.

“I’ve heard [people are surprised] but nobody expressed it to me,” said Murphy, who came over to Penn over a successful tenure at Haverford. “A lot of people were talking in the offseason how competitive our league is, top to bottom. I’m sure eyebrows were raised but not completely.”

Some more eyebrows will be raised if Penn is able to win the Ivy League tournament. In the finals, the Quakers would likely need to get by the mighty Big Red, a team they lost to by just one goal, on the road, earlier in the season.

And so, Murphy is cautiously optimistic. He’s already proven turnarounds can happen quickly. What’s a couple more wins?

“We don’t have a whole lot of goals,” the Penn coach said. “We talk in pretty simple terms. But from the outset of the season, our primary goal was to win an Ivy championship. Now we’re here and we’ll try to see if we can do it.”

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