With Penn’s women’s lacrosse and softball teams both playing one game at home for their respective Ivy League championships – just an hour apart – I went to campus to watch both games and chronicle the experience. It turned out to be a very good day for the Quakers. Here’s what transpired:
12:00: “I’m going to be doing a lot of banging,” a father of one of the Penn players informs me as the lacrosse game begins. “You might want to move up a row.” I keep my seat and the Franklin Field bench indeed begins to shake beneath me. I don’t mind. Lacrosse fever, baby!
12:02: People are still settling in when Penn scores its first goal of the game – the 16th of the year from Maddie Poplawski.
12:06: Lucy Ferguson makes the first of her eight saves on the day. “She’s amazing,” someone in the crowd says of the Penn goalie that would soon earn quite the amazing honor.
12:07: Ferguson can’t save a shot from Dartmouth star Hana Bowers, who nets her 46th goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1. It would be the last time the game is tied and the last time the Big Green would score that half.
Dartmouth was no match for Penn goalie Lucy Ferguson (Penn Athletics)
12:18: Two straight free-position goals – from Caroline Bunting and Courtney Tomchik – puts Penn up 3-1 as the crowd goes wild. The Penn fan that leads the cheers with a bullhorn after every goal gets a friendly suggestion to take a sip of water to preserve his voice. He grabs his 24-once Wawa coffee and takes a sip of that. I guess that works, too.
12:30: After a couple of more big saves from Ferguson, Penn goes up 4-1 on the 21st goal of the season from Iris Williamson.
12:43: Penn completes a dominant first half with a Bunting goal with just 11 seconds remaining. It’s 5-1 at the halftime break but the Quakers know they can’t rest easy. In last year’s Ivy championship, they held a 3-1 lead at halftime before watching Dartmouth celebrate on their own field.
Penn’s Caroline Bunting shook free of Dartmouth defenders all day (Penn Athletics)
12:59: Penn picks up right where it left off, opening up a 6-1 lead early in the second half on another Poplawski goal.
1:02: Around the same time Dartmouth slices a little bit into the lead to make it 6-2, the Penn-Dartmouth softball championship begins over at Penn Park. I start following that game on Twitter.
1:07: Penn calls a timeout after Bowers scores to make it 6-3. The people dressed in green are starting to make a little more noise.
1:09: Over the loudspeaker, it’s announced that Yale beat Princeton in the Ivy League men’s lacrosse championship but there aren’t any cheers. Come on, Penn fans – where’s the Princeton hate?
1:11: After Penn goes up 7-3, I get a high-five from the fan with the bullhorn, who I find out is defender Meg Markham’s dad, John. I asked how he got the role of head cheerleader. “I’m loud and they gave me this,” he said, pointing to the bullhorn. Makes sense.
John Markham is the man with the bullhorn for women’s lacrosse games
1:16: Bunting gets her hat trick to put Penn up 8-3 with a little under 20 minutes remaining. Things are looking good at Franklin Field but not as good at Penn Park, where Dartmouth opened the scoring with a run in the top of the first.
1:22: Dartmouth is going to have nightmares about Bunting, who scores her fourth of the game to extend Penn’s commanding lead to 9-3.
1:30: Dartmouth is making a little noise on both fields, scoring two straight goals to shave Penn’s lead to 9-5 while increasing its advantage at Penn Park to 2-0 through one-and-a-half innings.
1:35: The lacrosse game is starting to get pretty physical with an increasingly desperate Dartmouth team committing three straight penalties. But Penn makes the Big Green pay when Meredith Cain burying a free-position goal following one of them. Meanwhile at Penn Park, the Quakers slice Dartmouth’s lead in half on a Georgia Guttadauro RBI single in the second inning.
1:45: Dartmouth again scores two straight goals. But with Penn leading 10-7 and just five minutes left, the Big Green are running out of time.
1:48: Bunting forces a key turnover and Ferguson makes a big save as the Quakers begin to clamp down to protect their lead and run down the clock.
1:53: With fans counting down the final seconds, the final whistle blows and Penn celebrates its 10-7 win in the middle of the field. The win assures the Quakers a spot in the NCAA tournament for a whopping seventh straight year. Later, they’ll find out they draw Virginia in the first round Friday.
1:55: As is their custom, the Penn players sing “The Red and the Blue” in front of their fans. The Dartmouth players quickly try to scamper out of the stadium but reluctantly stop halfway down the track for the trophy ceremony.
After doing some celebrating, the Penn players then did some singing
2:00: The all-tournament team is named with Bunting, Cain, Markham and Poplawski all earning a spot and Ferguson being named most outstanding player. Chants of “Lucy” can be heard all across Franklin Field, right before all of the players go to receive their championship trophy.
Everyone wants to touch the the championship trophy
2:04: With one championship down and one to go, I begin the long, arduous journey from Franklin Field to Penn Park to catch the end of the softball game.
2:08: Just as I’m completing the arduous journey, I see a ball fly over the fence and notice that Penn is now leading 3-2. The fourth-inning solo home run, I find out, was belted by Kayla Dahlerbruch. And it came after Penn tied the game on a Dartmouth error.
2:20: Penn clings to its 3-2 lead after ace Alexis Borden wiggles out of a jam in the top of the fifth, getting a strikeout to end the inning.
2:38: Still leading 3-2, Penn escapes another big jam, thanks to a clutch play to catch the lead runner at third on a sac bunt with runners on first and second and nobody out. Some Penn fans are shaking bottles filled with coins to celebrate. Is this a softball thing?
Is there a better place to watch a game? That skyline never gets old.
2:46: On her next at bat following the home run, Dahlerbruch gets hit in the head with a foul tip but shakes it off with a smile on her face. Penn still can’t get any more runs though as the game shifts to the seventh – and final – inning.
2:51: Looking for her second win in as many days, Borden retires the first batter of the inning on a lineout. Two more outs until Penn’s first Ivy League softball championship since 1981. Fans are standing and cheering every strike.
2:53: Strikeout. One out until the title. “Don’t say anything,” one fan warns. “It’s not over,” another one screams. Gotta love baseball/softball superstition.
2:55: A slow grounder to second … and it’s over! About an hour after one Ivy League championship, Penn wins another. You can watch the final out and some great fan reactions below.
2:57: Head coach Leslie King gets the Gatorade shower – only it wasn’t Gatorade. “Thankfully, it was water,” she’d say later, her shirt almost completely dry. “Last year it was blue Gatorade.”
3:05: Standing in a row, the Penn players pass the trophy down the line. One fan helpfully calls out, “Don’t drop it.”
For the first time since 1981, the word “Pennsylvania” will be inscribed on this trophy
3:06: I see Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky watching the celebration and ask him if Penn has ever won two Ivy League championships at home in the same day before. Off the top of his head, he thinks it might be the first. It’s later revealed that this marks the first time two Penn women’s teams earned NCAA tournament bids in the same day.
3:09: The softball team sings the second “Red and the Blue” of the day. The song definitely sounds better after a win.
Heeding the words in the dugout
3:17: With players still smiling and taking pictures with their friends and family, I talk to Dahlerbruch about her game-winning home run. She said her dad has the ball. She’s going to keep it.
3:25: I talk to King about capturing her first title at Penn. Like all good coaches, she credited her senior class but admitted she was nervous during the final two innings as she was “counting down the outs.” As for the upcoming NCAA tournament, King said, “We’re going to go to some beautiful stadium somewhere and play some high-quality team and we’re looking forward to the challenge and the experience. We’re really going to enjoy the ride.”
3:30: I leave the softball stadium. All of the players and parents are still on the field, not wanting the moment to end.
The team that broke the 32-year title drought.