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Penn storms the field to celebrate its win over Loyola.

Defense Rules Day in Penn's 12-9 Second-Round Win Over Loyola

May 12, 2024
Justin Feil
Deena Ghazzi / Sideline Photos

PHILADELPHIA — Penn defeated Loyola for the second time in barely three weeks.

This time, it extended the season for the Quakers while it brought to an end Loyola’s year.

The Quakers affirmed that their 13-6 win over Loyola last month was no fluke with a 12-9 win over the Greyhounds at Franklin Field in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday. Penn never trailed.

“I really felt that they dominated the game,” Penn coach Karin Corbett said. “And to do that to Loyola twice this year is pretty impressive.”

Penn (15-4) advances to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 2016. The Quakers’ reward? A matchup with top-seeded Northwestern.

“It was crushing when we lost last year in the Sweet 16, and we knew we had bigger goals for this season,” Penn’s Izzy Rohr said. “We had a similar team coming back. … Right now, it’s do or die, and I think as hard as it is, our team loves that energy.”

On top of scoring her first career goal on her first career shot, Rohr, the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, led a defense that held a Loyola offense ranked ninth in the country in scoring to single digits for the second time all season. The other time was in the teams’ first meeting.

“Our goal is to dictate the offense,” Rohr said.

Kelly Van Hoesen tied her career high with 12 saves. She’s the anchor for Penn, which is ranked 10th in the country in scoring defense.

“We can’t give her credit enough,” Rohr said. “She is a main part of our defense through this whole season. She’s been super strong.”

At the other end, Penn got balanced scoring with Anna Brandt scoring a hat trick and Niki Miles, Maria Themelis, Lexi Edmonds and Catherine Berkery all scoring two goals apiece. Erika Chung supplied three assists. Every time Loyola pulled closer in the second half, Penn answered.

Loyola tied it before halftime, 4-4, but never caught up again after Brandt’s first goal on a free-position shot two minutes into the third quarter.

“It’s definitely hard,” said Brandt, who had four goals in the first game against Loyola. “Facing a team twice, especially one as skilled as Loyola, is definitely a challenge, but I think we kind of have the mentality, if we did it once we can do it again.”

Georgia Latch scored three times, Chase Boyle had two goals and two assists, and Sydni Black and Anna Ruby each had two goals for Loyola. Regan Kielmeyer had a pair of assists. Lauren Spence made nine saves, including several in close to keep Loyola in striking range.

“The first time we faced Penn, I was disappointed in how we came out and we performed,” Loyola coach Jen Adams said. “We had a lot of shots today; we generated a lot of shots. One of our game keys, we know it’s a numbers game, and I said, ‘You have to be scoring .500 against this Penn defense,’ and had that happened, it would have been a very different game.”

Draws that were even in the teams’ first meeting were decidedly for Loyola this time with the Greyhounds holding a 17-8 edge led by Boyle, who had nine — including her 200th of the season.

That put pressure on Penn’s defense, and it delivered.

“You have to credit the defense,” Corbett said. “They’d get the draw, and our defense would come up with a stop and give our attack that opportunity. Your defense has to play well when they’re losing the draw, and they did today.”

Penn jumped out to a strong start. One minute into the game, Themelis went left to the middle and fired in Penn’s first goal. Themelis went right the next time for a 2-0 lead.

Miles’ free-position goal gave Penn a 3-1 lead after Ruby scored for Loyola. It stayed that way the rest of the quarter, with Van Hoesen making an in-close save after a bang-bang play. Loyola’s Spence answered back with a pair of saves at the other end.

Miles shook a defender for her second score of the game, giving Penn a 4-1 lead early in the second quarter, but Loyola scored the next three to tie it with 1:33 left before halftime.

Boyle finished a nice feed from Kielmeyer, then fed a free-position chance to Black to make it 4-3. Latch tied it at 4 on a free-position shot after Spence stoned Julia Chai in front of the cage at the other end. Spence made six saves in the first half.

Penn grabbed momentum out of the locker room. Brandt scored her first goal on a free-position shot two minutes into the second half, the first Penn score in almost 14 minutes. Then Penn erupted in celebration, as Rohr went coast-to-coast for her first career goal and a 6-4 lead with 9:33 to go in the third quarter.

Rohr had never even attempted a shot in her career.

“I’m never really one to shoot because if I miss, then I’m the one running all the way back,” Rohr said. “So, usually I don’t, but my head kind of went black and I was just running in there. No one really slid to me. Obviously, they weren’t prepared for me to shoot because I never have before. And it was just great.”

Following a Loyola timeout, Latch found Ruby open in the middle of the defense, and she skipped in her second goal, but Brandt ripped a shot high by Spence to re-open a two-goal lead for Penn.

Black beat one defender, snuck between another two as they closed on her and shoveled in her second goal to put it back to a one-goal deficit at 7-6 that held going into the fourth quarter.

Penn took advantage of a green card on Boyle to start the fourth quarter when Keeley Block fed Catherine Berkery for a man-up goal. Brandt’s free-position goal a minute later gave Penn its first three-goal lead, 9-6, since early in the second quarter.

Boyle’s free-position goal brought Loyola back within 9-7 with still 12 minutes left. Loyola could have drawn closer, but instead fell further behind on an important swing, as Van Hoesen saved a free-position shot and Edmonds scored 45 seconds later off a feed from Chung.

After Loyola could not take advantage of a green card, the Quakers built their edge to 11-7 when Berkery finished a pass inside from Chung on a two-minute player-up advantage.

“Different attackers stepped up when they needed to and put the ball in to help us keep the lead after that 4-4 tie,” Corbett said.

Latch gave Loyola some momentum with five minutes remaining, but Brandt caused a big turnover with less than four minutes left that Penn then converted into a 12-8 lead on Edmonds’ second goal. The Greyhounds answered immediately with Latch’s third goal, but a late stop by Van Hoesen sealed Loyola’s fate.

“To get this far, to get to the Sweet 16, we talked about in the locker room that in and of itself is quite a feat,” Adams said. “And we knew we were going to have to play great lacrosse today. And, unfortunately, we just didn’t play enough of that to get past this Penn side.”

Penn will try to extend its year when it takes on the defending national champion Northwestern. Last year, the Quakers fell in a close second-round game to Boston College, an experience that Corbett pointed out will be valuable.

“I’m hoping that loss from BC that not only fueled this year will hopefully help them go into Northwestern playing confidently and not being nervous,” Corbett said. “Obviously, we’re playing the national champion. But I do think that loss to BC is helpful for them to know that they can hang with anybody.”

In a season marked by parity, Penn is hopeful it can pull an upset. The Quakers are looking to dethrone Northwestern and return to their first national semifinal since 2009.

“I don’t think Northwestern has seen a defense like this,” Corbett said. “I know they play a really tough schedule, but this is a little bit different defense than what they have seen.”