Legitimacy doesn't always come easily.
The Penn women's lacrosse team has made it to the Final Four for the second straight year - after not even making it into the NCAA Tournament for 2 decades. The Quakers (16-1), who have won a program-record 14 in a row, are seeded second. Even though they beat top-seed Northwestern (19-1) at home in late April to avenge a 12-2 loss in last May's national semifinals. And were ranked No. 1 in both polls (Northwestern was No. 1 in the power ratings, Penn sixth). And beat six top-20 teams during the season (and another in the tourney).
Nonetheless . . .
"[People] are still doubting us," senior attacker Allison Ambrozy said. "It's been like that since the start of the season. We knew last year wasn't a fluke. I feel we haven't necessarily gotten the respect we deserve. But we're still making our name. We don't have [any] history. We're trying to do that."
The Quakers will play Duke (13-7) at 8:30 in the second half of tonight's semifinal doubleheader at Towson's (Md.) Johnny Unitas Stadium. Northwestern draws Syracuse (18-2) in the opener.
Duke has been to the last three Final Fours. These Blue Devils barely made it into the field. But they upset Georgetown and Maryland to make it back. They're 0-4 in the semis, but 2-0 against Penn (2002 and '03).
Northwestern had won 36 straight before coming back to Franklin Field, site of the 2007 finals.
But first obstacles first.
"Just because they weren't seeded doesn't mean Duke doesn't deserve to be here," Ambrozy said. "They've been here. We both have just as much to lose. All we can do is focus on Penn.
"We still remember that loss [to Northwestern]. But they're going to be out to get us, too, if it gets to that. Last year, it was a novelty. But that's kind of worn off. We know what to expect. We don't want to lose.
"This is something we've thought about since we first came in as freshmen. All the steps we've taken were toward our ultimate goal. We're excited to be back. But we've worked hard for this. We want it to be our season, our time."
Three other teams are thinking the same thing. Only one is heading home with the prize.
This is coach Karin Brower's eighth season in West Philly. Her next win will be her 100th (she had 13 at Drew). The Quakers have no one in the top 10 of any offensive category. They lost Becca Edwards during the season with a knee injury. But here they are, once again. Brower certainly doesn't sound surprised.
"We had to get kids to believe, in where we saw the program going," Brower said. "As opposed to going to a program that was already there. Maybe they've got a little chip on their shoulders, being a team that was never there before.
"Last year, we were hoping to get to the tournament. And we ran with it. I think they believe they haven't gotten enough [recognition]. They think they're better than that, and they're going to prove it. A lot of people thought last year was just a Cinderella season for us, that we were a flash in the pan. We're hoping to compete for a national championship . . . every year."