May 15, 2010

Courtesy of Penn Athletics

MALVERN, Pa. - Ask any goaltender what they want to do immediately after a rough game, and invariably the answer is a short, but assertive 'Get right back in goal.' For Penn's Emily Szelest, no doubt the wait between the Ivy League Tournament Final against Dartmouth and the Quakers' opening NCAA Tournament game was a long two weeks. However, the senior showed her resilience and will power against the Terriers with a career-high 18 saves in Penn's 14-9 win.

The 18 stops came just one game after Szelest struggled in the Ivy final against the Big Green. While the Quakers won that game - and the first-ever Ivy Tournament championship - Szelest made just one save, the lowest total of her career. Next time out, with the stakes even higher, the senior goalkeeper put on a dazzling display of saves to keep B.U.s vaunted duo of McKinley Curro and Traci Landy at bay for most of the game. The pair, which entered the game with a combined 98 goals in 2010, launched 19 shots on goal throughout the game - and Szelest stopped 14 of them.

Even in the first half, which Penn dominated to the tune of an 11-3 halftime lead, Szelest was called upon to make big saves to keep the Red and Blue comfortably ahead. She had nine saves in the opening 30 minutes, including three in the final 1:33 of the half. Two of those saves came on free position attempts for the Terriers.

In the second half, Szelest made another nine saves as B.U. outshot the Quakers, 20-6 in the final period. Twice Szelest was called upon to make back-to-back saves on Curro who was able to find space alone in the slot and each time, Szelest stood tall and kept the Quakers in front. Perhaps her best save of the game came with 20:45 left when she denied Landy on a wide-open one-timer from close range, getting her stick down to block Landy's five-hole attempt.

Szelest's brick wall impersonation between the pipes helped make another standout day from classmate Ali DeLuca the offensive story. DeLuca finished with five goals on the day, becoming just the second player in Penn history with 45 or more goals in a single season. She now sits at 70 points for the 2010 campaign, two away from equaling the Penn record for a single season of 72 set in 1981. At this point in her career, it would be somewhat redundant to say that DeLuca can do just about anything on a lacrosse field, but the Tewaaraton finalist once again proved that against B.U. as she scored in a variety of ways - whether it was finishing a set passing play with Erin Brennan to give Penn a 3-0 lead, burying a free position shot or whipping a rocket past an unsuspecting keeper on the fly. In addition, Deluca came through with a team-high five draw controls, usually when the Quakers needed them the most. Not to mention she spent most of her defensive day tailing Curro and keeping the speedy sniper off kilter for most of the contest.

Another two of Penn's battle-tested group of veterans added hat tricks in the win - Emma Spiro and Giulia Giordano. Sophomore Erin Brennan had a four-point day with two goals and a pair of assists. Courtney Lubbe had a goal and an assist while Megan Smith added one helper.

The Quakers were outshot 34-27, but Szelest made sure that disparity didn't come back to haunt the Red and Blue. Boston University committed 14 turnovers, but all but three of them were unforced as the Terriers had trouble connecting on passes throughout the game.

With the win, Penn improves to 8-3 in the NCAA Tournament over the past four years. The Quakers advance to play top-seeded Maryland in the quarterfinals on May 22 at noon in College Park. The Terps advanced with a 20-5 win over Marist on Saturday. Earlier this season, Penn was defeated by Maryland, 12-6, at Franklin Field.