The Swarthmore Women’s Lacrosse team blew through its early season schedule, dispatching its first four opponents, Eastern, Drew, Rochester and Widener by a combined score of 50-18. The team is satisfied with its strong start; in the words of midfielder Annalise Penikis ’13, “It has been great that everyone has gotten a chance to play and get comfortable in games.”
However, the team recognizes that much tougher tests lie ahead. The first such test came on Tuesday night, when Swarthmore lost narrowly to twelfth-ranked Amherst College, 11-8. Swarthmore was led offensively by Penikis (2 goals and 2 assists) and Elyse Tierney ’15 (3 goals). Despite the loss, the team’s strong performance was a signal that the team will be prepared for the gauntlet that is the Centennial Conference schedule. The conference is one of the premier lacrosse conferences in NCAA Division III, and the Garnet recognize that they will need to bring their best effort every game if they hope to match or improve upon last season’s 5-4 Conference record and playoff berth. While Franklin and Marshall and Gettysburg stand out as national powerhouses, midfielder Corinne Sommi ’14 stressed that “every game in our conference will be a key game.”
“We are no longer the underdogs,” Sommi continued, adding, “We need to prove that our success [last year] was not just luck and that we are a program on the rise.”
While upsetting Franklin and Marshall and Gettysburg would be impressive achievements, defender Caroline Murphy ‘14 noted that “a few teams in the conference are very evenly matched,” particularly Ursinus, Dickinson and Washington College. As Swarthmore strives to qualify for the playoffs for a second consecutive year, winning these games will be “extremely important,” in Murphy’s words.
Whether or not the team has faced strong opponents thus far, it has opened the season focused and driven. Head Coach Karen Borbee attributed the team’s success thus far to “a solid group of returning players from last year,” noting that “they have really helped the new players to feel comfortable.”
Swarthmore’s prolific offensive attack has been led by Penikis. With 14 goals and 10 assists through the first four games, she has played a role in almost half of the team’s scoring thus far. Also contributing offensively have been Sommi (12 points), Sara Lentricchia ’15 (8) and Tierney (5). Sommi came up particularly big in Swarthmore’s lone closely contested contest thus far, a 9-8 victory against Drew, by scoring the game-winning goal on a breakaway with just under five minutes remaining.
Swarthmore’s defensive has been just as stifling as the offense has been prolific. Borbee lauded the team’s “strong defensive play” in the first four games. The team’s defense has been anchored by goalkeeper Michelle Ammerman ’14, who has 13 saves and is allowing just 4.40 goals per game. Freshmen Connie Bowen and Christine McGinn have also seen considerable time between the pipes, with Bowen picking up her first college win. Murphy has been the team’s defensive leader, collecting a team-leading 13 ground balls and causing 6 turnovers. Also contributing on the defensive end have been Tierney (6 gb, 6 ct), Lentricchia (3 gb, 1 ct), Catie Meador ’13 and Samantha Reichard ’15.
The team’s early games have been particularly helpful for the Garnet’s young players, who have had the opportunity to be eased into game action during some of the lopsided affair. The variety of people who have played has helped Swarthmore “work out the kinks” and develop “teamwork and patience,” in Murphy’s words. The relatively even playing time has helped every player on the team to remain focused and motivated, something Penikis emphasized as being particularly important: “I think our team has a lot of drive this year. Every person on our team wants to work hard to get better, which has definitely contributed to our success.”
After taking on Cabrini tonight (7pm at Clothier field), Swarthmore opens its Conference season at home against Ursinus on Saturday night (7pm). Defeating the Bears will be critical to Swarthmore’s dual goals of, in Penikis’s words, “to make playoffs again this year” and to either “win the conference” or “get an at-large bid” to the NCAA championships.