Penn and Penn State's women's lacrosse teams are set to face off Saturday in State College in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. For either team, a win would mark a milestone in recent school history. Penn State hasn't made the semifinals since 1999, while Penn has not gotten there since 2009.
The Lions (13-6) are coming off a 14-13 overtime win against Florida. Penn (15-4) decisively defeated its first two tournament opponents. The Quakers took down Wagner, 17-7, before overpowering Towson, 12-4.
On a bus to State College on Thursday, Penn coach Karin Brower Corbett said Penn State and Penn haven't played each other enough to be considered in-state rivals. The teams last met in 2009.
But Corbett said Penn has been watching lots of film to prepare for the Lions, a scrappy team with plenty of threats on attack.
Penn State coach Missy Doherty called Penn a difficult opponent with a different style of play than her team is used to.
"We're a little run-and-gun and they tend to settle it down a little bit more," Doherty said Wednesday. "So a little bit conflicting styles of play."
"I think our Big Ten schedule really helps us prepare," she added. "You're not going to find harder opponents than the teams that we've already played."
Senior midfielder Madison Cyr leads the Nittany Lions this season with 76 points on 55 goals and 21 assists. Senior goalie Emi Smith has started all 19 games, making 135 saves.
The Quakers also have a strong senior class, led by Ivy League attacker of the year Nina Corcoran. She finished with 27 goals and 58 assists, the most in the nation. Corbett said she has seen Corcoran improve this season, particularly in her ability to read defenders.
"This class has led the way," Corbett said. "We lost a big class last year. A lot of people counted us out in a lot of ways."
Corbett said she wasn't sure what to expect from the atmosphere at Penn State on Saturday, but she knows both teams have a lot of fan support.
Corcoran said she was looking forward to playing on a field used solely for lacrosse. (Penn plays at Franklin Field, which is used for a variety of sports.)
If the Quakers win on Saturday, they will return to the Philadelphia area for the semifinals, which are scheduled for Friday at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester.
"That would be so special," Corcoran said. "But it's one game at a time."