Shortly after the members of the Penn women's lacrosse team walked off the field following a sound beating (12-6) by Virginia in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament, coach Karin Corbett delivered the same message to her despondent players that she had given them all season.
"We were sloppy all season long, and it finally caught up to us against a very good ACC team," Corbett said. "We were young last season, and every time we talked about cleaning up our game, the girls were kind of like, 'Yeah, whatever.'
"Looking back," the Quakers coach continued, "that might have been the best thing that could have happened to us. All season long I didn't have to spend too much time on that. The girls played a much cleaner game all season."
The result of playing more error-free lacrosse during the 2014 season has the Quakers (12-4) in the NCAA tournament for the eighth consecutive season. Penn, winner of eight straight Ivy League championships and the last two league tournament crowns, will face a tough Canisius team (12-6) Friday at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex on the campus of the University of Maryland.
The game marks the first meeting between Penn and the Golden Griffins, who have won the last four Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournaments.
Penn placed a league-best seven players on the all-Ivy team this season. Perhaps no other player has been more instrumental in Penn's cleaner play than Meg Markham. Named the Ivy League defender of the year, Markham led the Ivy League in caused turnovers (37). Her caused turnovers per game (2.31) ranked eighth in the nation.
"We got the message last year," said Markham, who along with teammate Lucy Ferguson is a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the nation's top men's and women's players. "That was our focus. We know that in order to win some games, we are going to have to be more careful than our opponents. Last season was a perfect example."
No player has been more crucial to Canisius' success than midfielder Maria Kotas, who leads the team with 54 goals and 25 assists.
If the Quakers win their first-round matchup, top-seeded Maryland awaits.
Penn vs. Canisius
Friday at 4 p.m., College Park, Md.
(12-4, 6-1 Ivy League); Canisius (12-6, 6-2 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)
Coaches: Penn, Karin Corbett (160-89 at Penn, 173-111 overall); Canisius, Scott Teeter (104-101)