Quakers prep for first Final Four

The women's lacrosse team is still getting used to its sudden celebrity status.

Posted: May 24, 2007

The Penn women's lacrosse players marveled at the workers spray painting the name of their sport in perfect white block letters onto Franklin Field earlier this week.

It is taking some getting used to as the Quakers prepare to play in their first lacrosse Final Four, which will take place on their home turf tomorrow and Sunday.

"I'm just transfixed by it," said senior defender Karen Jann, watching the field being prepped for her team's big moment.

That moment will arrive tomorrow, when the fourth-seeded Quakers (16-1) face two-time defending champion and top-seeded Northwestern (19-1).

Usually under the radar and unrecognized, the players are becoming a little more known in Philadelphia - and in lacrosse circles - as they embark on the school's first Final Four appearance.

"I live in Old City, and I get stopped a lot now, which is pretty funny," Penn coach Karin Brower said. "People will say, 'Wow, that's great about lacrosse.' These girls go out to eat and someone stops them. It is a great story."

The Quakers lost only one game this season, and now they have a shot at revenge. They will face Northwestern - which beat Penn, 13-4, on March 9 - at Franklin Field.

"There's an advantage in having seen them earlier in the season," said senior captain Chrissy Muller, who graduated from Mount St. Joseph Academy. "I think we've really improved since then. Our chemistry is on. We have more experience and more confidence."

For those just learning about Penn, it's a Cinderella story. But the Quakers have felt like queens in the making for quite some time.

After losing to Northwestern in their fourth game of the season, the Quakers have ripped off 13 straight wins - a program record. In late March, Penn beat No. 12 Johns Hopkins, 12-4.

That victory provided a shot of confidence.

They got another when they beat Maryland in the quarterfinals by overcoming an early four-goal deficit for the 9-7 win.

The Quakers boast a strong defense, which held the Terrapins to their second-lowest goal total of the season. They have allowed only 6.29 goals per game, which is second best in the nation.

Penn likes to pressure the ball and extends its defense before allowing opposing attackers into their territory.

Goalkeeper Sarah Waxman, a junior, has a 6.15 goals-against average this season. But Northwestern is famed for its stingy defense.

Wildcats goalie Morgan Lathrop led the nation, allowing just 5.74 goals per game.

"To everyone who's not a part of this team, we came from nowhere to be in the Final Four," Brower said. "For us, we know how hard we've worked. Last year, we outshot a lot of our opponents. It just didn't always show up in the win column. We knew looking at our schedule this year it was possible."

And they knew where it was possible.

The possibility of playing in the Final Four on Franklin Field was a major motivation for the Quakers this season.

That thought got Muller through preseason training, when the team was running exhausting sprints up and down the field.

"We just knew we wanted to be here playing in it," she said.

When Bower arrived at Penn eight seasons ago, she set a goal of having Penn hosting the Final Four. Being host would be a fantastic recruiting tool, she thought.

Now, she has a chance to use it for a run at a national championship.

Brower has been amazed at the outpouring of support from former Penn players.

"I'm happy because this is one of the oldest women's lacrosse programs in the country," she said. "It was really good in the '80s, and we're bringing that tradition back. I love to see how many alum come back and say they're proud. It's not just what we're doing now. It's the ones who came before us."


Local Flavor

Here are lacrosse players from local high schools on the Penn women's lacrosse team:

Sarah Eastburn, Doylestown, Lawrenceville School. The senior defender has 11 caused turnovers.

Becca Edwards, Flourtown, Springfield (M) High. The sophomore attacker has 31 goals.

Courtney Lubbe, Newtown, Council Rock High. The freshman attacker/midfielder has 3 shots.

Chrissy Muller, Rydal, Mount St. Joseph Academy. The senior attacker has 22 goals.

Esther Polgar, Wayne, Radnor High. The junior midfielder has 2 caused turnovers.

Hannah Rudloff, West Chester, West Chester East High. The sophomore attacker has 7 goals

Megan Smith, West Chester, Henderson High. The freshman attacker/midfielder has 1 shot

Bethany Warren, Downingtown, Downingtown West High. The freshman attacker/midfielder has 1 goal.

- Shannon Ryan


NCAA Division I Women's Lacrosse

Semifinals

Tomorrow at Franklin Field

Northwestern (19-1) vs. Penn (16-1), 6 p.m.

Virginia (18-3) vs. Duke (16-3), 45 minutes after first semifinal.

Championship

Sunday at Franklin Field

Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.


Contact staff writer Shannon Ryan at 215-854-5503 or sryan@phillynews.com.

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