Women's lacrosse upsets No. 9 Penn after second-half comeback

by Addison Dick | 4/15/19 2:25am

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Saturday’s win over Penn moves the Big Green into a tie for first place with Cornell, their opponent next weekend.

Source: John and Matt Risley/Courtesy of the Dartmouth Athletics Department

The No. 24 women’s lacrosse team used a second-half scoring run to earn a signature win of its season against the No. 9 University of Pennsylvania. Down 7-4 one minute into the second half, the Big Green went on an 8-1 run to gain the lead and win the game with a score of 15-11.

Last season, the Quakers defeated Dartmouth in two close games. The Big Green lost 13-11 in the regular season and 16-14 in the Ivy League Semifinals. Heading into this year’s game, these losses were on the mind of the Big Green players.

“It wasn’t as much revenge as it was unfinished business,” attacker Kierra Sweeney ’19 said. “We had two pretty sad losses to them by two goals last season, so we just wanted to come back and show them how much we’ve improved.”

Saturday’s win marked the Big Green’s first win over Penn since 2016. Each of the last four games between the rivals was decided by two goals or fewer.

“The last time we beat Penn was my freshman year, so it’s been a few years running now,” midfielder Kathryn Giroux ’19 said. “We’ve seen them so much, we know them really well, so we’re excited to come out and beat them finally.”

The Big Green battled its way through a low-scoring first half. Sophia Turchetta ’20 found the back of the net twice, but Dartmouth only recorded four goals in the opening 30 minutes and entered halftime down by two goals.

Playing in close games is nothing new for Dartmouth, so the halftime deficit was far from insurmountable. 

“All of our games have been close games, even the ones that have ended in losses,” head coach Danielle Spencer said. “We’ve played a lot of great competition, so I’m really pleased with where we’re at.”

After an early Penn goal extended the Quakers’ lead to three, the Big Green found its offensive rhythm and went on two four-goal scoring runs. In less than nine minutes, Dartmouth erased the three-goal deficit and took a commanding 12-8 lead. Penn closed the gap to three goals with just over four minutes remaining, but the Big Green withstood the challenge and secured its seventh win in its last eight games.

“Our team played a full 60 minutes of lacrosse, which is pretty hard to do,” Sweeney said. “Penn is a great opponent and we have a pretty strong rivalry with them. They’re a top-10 team, so it’s really exciting to beat them.”

One week removed from a tough loss to Princeton University, the Big Green responded to its first Ivy League defeat with its most impressive result of the season. 

“Princeton was obviously super disappointing, but we are riding on our second half,” Giroux said. “We came out on fire in that half and beat them in pretty much all of the statistical categories.”

Spencer said she was happy with the team’s performance against Princeton because the game was close throughout.

“The game could’ve gone either way, so we haven’t lost our confidence,” she said. “We just have to focus on the small details of what we want to do a little better on both ends of the field.”

Sweeney called the turnaround from the loss to Princeton to the win over Penn an “impressive feat.”

“Obviously, we wanted to win against Princeton, but we learned a lot,” Sweeney said. “It was a tough loss, but we were able to make the adjustments and come out and play super hard and gritty against Penn.”

The Big Green relied on its strengths to dominate the Quakers in the second half. One of the team’s greatest attributes is its ability to gain draw control. After losing seven of 11 draws in the first half, Dartmouth had 10 draw controls to Penn’s seven in the second half. The Big Green used the draws to maintain possession and begin its scoring spree.

Giroux has been dominant on the draw for the Big Green. She has over 300 draw controls in her career, ranking 13th all-time in the NCAA.

“The more possessions you can get on attack, the more opportunities you get to score,” Giroux said. “The draw is a huge momentum shifter. If we keep winning the draw, the other team doesn’t have a chance to score.”

Another strength of the Big Green this season has been the team’s depth. On Saturday, seven different players scored for Dartmouth. Attacker Ellie Carson ’20 led the team with four goals, and attacker Kellen D’Alleva ’19 had a game-high six points.

“We have a lot of depth this year, which we haven’t always had in the past,” Giroux said. “In any given game, there could be 10 different scorers, which makes us a really hard team to scout.” 

Penn is the highest-ranked team in the Ivy League, but the Big Green has faced tough competition this season. The team opened the year on the road against Northwestern University and the University of Michigan and played on the road at No. 1 Boston College.

“Our players feel battle-tested, and that helps ease the nerves going into the game,” Spencer said. “We feel like we’ve got some good games under our belt.”

Giroux noted how the tough schedule has helped the team play well against Ivy League opponents.

“Part of the thought of making our schedule so tough at the beginning was to prepare us for our most important Ivy games,” she said.

The Big Green will look to build momentum as it concludes the regular season. Sweeney said Saturday’s win gives the team confidence heading into the final two weeks of Ivy League play.

Dartmouth will travel to play non-conference opponent University of Vermont on Tuesday before playing its final home game of the season on Saturday against Cornell University. The following weekend, the Big Green will wrap up the regular season with a matchup at Yale University.

“We have a few more tough opponents, but I think we can come out with a win against all of them,” Giroux said.

The Big Green is hoping that the win will increase its chances of making the NCAA Tournament come May. The team boasts an 8-4 record with a 4-1 mark in conference play.