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WOMENS LAX: Strong 4th Quarter Helps Penn Women’s Lacrosse Outlast Loyola-Maryland, Will Face National Champions in Elite Eight

By Morgan Killian-Moseley Photos: Mike Nance, 05/15/24, 5:00PM EDT


Photos: Mike Nance

By: Morgan Killian-Moseley

UNIVERSITY CITY, PHILADELPHIA- The Penn Quakers women’s lacrosse team stymied the electric offense of the Loyola-Maryland Greyhounds and rode a five-goal fourth quarter outburst to a 12-9 win at Franklin Field on May 12th in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. They now head into the quarterfinals to face the Number 1 overall seed, the defending national champion Northwestern Wildcats, in Evanston, Illinois on May 16th with a spot in the Final Four in Cary, North Carolina on the line.

Penn earned the 8-seed in the tournament with a 13-4 regular season record and a 5-2 mark in the Ivy League; falling in overtime in the conference tournament finals to the Yale Bulldogs. The Quakers stomped the Atlantic 10 tournament-winning Richmond Spiders 16-5 on May 10th to set up their matchup against Loyola.

Penn advances to play North Carolina in Elite 8 match-up on May 16th - PSD Photo by Mike Nance

The Greyhounds took down the ACC powerhouse Duke Blue Devils 16-11 on May 10th, and the Patriot League champions entered the Mother’s Day matchup sporting an outstanding 18-2 record, including a perfect 9-0 in-conference. Not only that, but the Green and Grey featured the leading scorer in the nation in junior midfielder Chase Boyle; who entered the game against Penn with a whopping 83 goals. The Greyhounds also boasted senior attacker Sydni Black, tied for fourth in Division I with 74 markers; and Australian junior attacker Georgia Latch, who had 59 tallies of her own going into Sunday.

Many teams might be intimidated facing an offense with such prolific scoring threats. But the Quakers had held the Greyhounds’ attack in check before, handing Loyola one of their two defeats by a score of 13-6 at Franklin Field back on April 17th. And both teams knew their offenses would need to make the most of their opportunities, with both squads entering the matchup in the top 10 in the nation in fewest goals allowed per game.

Penn would win the opening draw and capitalize on their first chance, as senior midfielder and captain Maria Themelis would bury one past Loyola goalie Lauren Spence to open the scoring 59 seconds in. Themelis would connect again a little over two minutes later, giving her 10 goals on the year and giving the Quakers a 2-0 lead.

Graduate attacker Anna Ruby would get the Greyhounds on the board on a free position opportunity just past the halfway point of the quarter. But Penn senior attacker and captain Niki Miles would deliver on a free position attempt of her own just over two minutes later to push the Quaker lead to 3-1.  That lead would hold for the remainder of the 1st quarter, and Miles would connect again just over three and a half minutes into the 2nd for her 54th goal of the year to give Penn a three-goal cushion.

That’s when Loyola’s Big Three went to work. Boyle converted on a helper from graduate attacker Regan Kielmeyer for her 84th goal of the season with just under seven minutes left in the half, then Boyle would set up Black for her 75th just over a minute later. And with 93 seconds remaining, Latch would bury a free position chance past Penn goalie Kelly Van Hoesen to give herself 60 on the year and knot things up at 4-4. That score would hold into halftime.

Both teams had to be happy they’d kept the opponents’ leading scorers in check, but of course they wanted to take the top off of their own offenses. 

Penn Women's LAX team joins for a pre-game chant - PSD Video by Morgan Killian-Moseley

Penn’s leading scorer, junior middy Anna Brandt, would get herself on the board on a free position chance just over two minutes into the 2nd half to give the Quakers the lead again. Three minutes later, Penn would get an insurance goal from a very unlikely source of offense: senior defender and captain Izzy Rohr, a local product out of Episcopal Academy.

Backliners rarely score, if at all, in lacrosse. The rules of lacrosse enforce 7-on-7 play in the offensive zones, and defenders almost always stay back in case of a turnover and counter rush. But in this case the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week had a head of steam and no Greyhounds chose to mark her, so she surged in and ripped a shot past Spence for her first collegiate goal to make it 7-5 Penn.

“I’ve never really wanted to shoot because if I miss, I’ll be the one running all the way back,” Rohr said after the game. “But my head kind of went black and I just went running in there and no one really slid to me. Obviously, they weren’t prepared for me to shoot because I never have before. I think that was a great momentum goal, it really fired up our team.”

Loyola would continue to put the pressure on, however, as Ruby would connect off an assist from Latch for her second tally of the game and 25th of the campaign to make it a one-goal game again. Brandt would counter with her second marker of the contest 75 seconds later, but Black would respond with her second goal of the game, number 76 of the season, 54 seconds afterwards to once again cut the Greyhound deficit to one with under five minutes left in the 3rd.

The 4th quarter began with the Quakers clinging to a 7-6 lead. On the opening draw of the final stanza, Loyola’s Boyle was called for illegal use of the stick and assessed a one-minute green card penalty. The Red and Blue would take advantage of being a woman up, as freshman attacker Catherine Berkery would take a setup from junior attacker Keeley Block and spike a one-timer past Spence to again push the Penn lead back to two. 68 seconds later, Brandt would convert another free position chance to complete the hat trick; giving herself 58 goals on the year, and giving the Quakers a three-goal lead again.

But the Greyhounds weren’t going to roll over and play dead. Boyle would convert a free position chance of her own 47 seconds later for her Division I-leading 85th goal of the year. Penn’s Lexi Edmonds would respond, though, as the senior attacker notched her 11th goal of the campaign nearly two minutes later to make it 10-7 Quakers.

Penn senior middy Aly Feeley was assessed a green card over six minutes into the final stanza, but Loyola couldn’t take advantage. 

In fact, a few seconds after Feeley was released Loyola’s Black was called for an illegal follow through on her shot and hit with a two-minute yellow card. And once again Berkery would deliver on the power play. Her second goal with the Quakers a woman up was her 34th of the season and gave Penn a four-goal lead, their largest of the game, with just under six minutes remaining.

But again, the Greyhounds would respond quickly, as Latch connected for her second marker of the contest 49 seconds later. With under three minutes left, Edmonds would deliver her second goal of the game and 12th of the year. But Latch would respond again just 19 seconds after, completing her hat trick and pushing her season total to 62 with 2:34 left.

Loyola would win the ensuing draw, but the Quakers would hunker down defensively, clogging up the shooting lanes and forcing the Greyhounds to spend precious time. The Green and Grey couldn’t get anything of value off, and as the Quakers cleared the zone and played keep away Black took a yellow with 50 seconds left, allowing the Red and Blue to drain the rest of the clock and secure their berth in the Elite Eight.

In all, Penn had five players with multiple goals, led by Brandt’s hat trick. Junior attacker Erika Chung led the Quakers in assists, picking up helpers on the final three Penn goals.

For Loyola, Latch led the way with a hat trick and an assist, while Boyle had two goals and two assists.

Van Hoesen had a dozen saves in the win for the Quakers, including six in the 3rd quarter; while Spence made nine saves for the Greyhounds, though she was unable to make one in the final frame.

Loyola outshot Penn 32-27, and had a 17-8 advantage in the draw circle. Where Penn had the advantage was in free position opportunities. The Quakers converted all three of their chances while the Greyhounds went 3-for-6, including 1-for-4 in the 4th quarter.

Penn junior Anna Brandt's third goal of the game - PSD Video by Morgan Killian-Moseley

Penn also had the edge on the power play, converting two of their three chances with the extra woman, and the last of those three came with the game already locked up. Loyola was unable to convert the only time they were a woman up.

“I’m just so proud of them. Being able to be at Franklin Field with this group one last time is really amazing,” said Penn head coach Karin Corbett. “We have a saying, ‘Penn Pride’, and they really showed that today.

“I really felt that they dominated the game. To [beat] Loyola twice this year is pretty impressive, and it was an all-around team effort.”

“It’s totally a team effort,” Brandt agreed. “We came in with the game plan that it’s going to take [all of us], it doesn’t really matter who puts it in the back of the cage at the end of the set as long as we’re generating [scoring chances] and generating goals.

“Every single kid out there is capable of scoring, I have full faith in all the other girls I’m out there with,” Brandt continued. “So, we were all just doing our part to move the ball, maybe draw some slides, draw some double teams to open up somebody else and generate goals.”

Rohr was also quick to give credit where credit was due on the defensive end, namely to Van Hoesen.

“Kelly’s one of my best friends,” Rohr said. “She a great person and she plays with such fire. She’s pretty quiet which is kind of funny, so to get her screaming and get her hyped is so great. 

"We try to limit [how many shots get to her] and when she makes those big saves the whole team feels it,” Rohr continued.  It all starts with her, she’s been the main part of our defense throughout this whole season; she’s been super-strong.”

A big win for the Quakers puts them on the doorstep of the Final Four, but they will have to take down the defending champions to get there.

So what do the Quakers think it will take to knock off the champions?

“Just stick to what we know,” Brandt said. “No matter who we face, whether it’s a Big Ten team or in-conference, if we play our game, we play with Penn Pride, we play as one, we’re going to be just fine.”

“We love being the underdogs,” Rohr added. “A lot of people count us out sometimes and we love proving people wrong.”

Definitely a Philadelphia mentality, that.

“We’re Philly Gritty,” Rohr said with a smile and a chuckle.

Coach Corbett cited the Quakers’ 2023 Sweet Sixteen loss to Boston College as the inspiration for this year’s team, as proof that they could play with anyone.

As for what it would take to defeat Northwestern, “You always need luck on your side, right?” Coach Corbett said with a joking smile on her face.

“But I do think that our defense is really strong,” Corbett continued. “I believe our defense is one of the best in the country, so I don’t think Northwestern has seen a defense like [ours]. I know they play a really tough schedule, but this a little bit different than what they’ve seen.

“Obviously [the Wildcats] have a couple of the best players in the country on offense, and I’m hoping our zone can hold up to that,” Corbett added. “Where we have to win that game is on the offensive side. We’ve got to finish our shots, we’ve got to play, as [Brandt] said, as [a seven-person unit], and not play with fear and just look at [Brandt and Miles to score].”

Coach Corbett added that she expected Brandt and Miles to draw two defenders most the time from Northwestern and reiterated that scoring contributions from attackers other than the Quakers’ 50+ goal scorers would be crucial.

Facing the defending champions is a daunting task on any sport. But the confidence the Quaker players and coaches exude gives you the sense that they are indeed capable of pulling off the upset.