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Big Green Battles Penn Sunday For Ivy League Championship

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By John and Matt Risley
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Ivy League Tournament Championship Game

Game 16 - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - 12 p.m.
#2 Dartmouth Big Green (11-4) vs.
#1 Penn Quakers (9-6)
Philadelphia, Pa. - Dunning-Cohen Champions Field at Penn Park
All-Time Series:
Dartmouth, 21-14
First Meeting: April 3, 1976 - L, 8-0 (Away)
Last Meeting: April 14, 2011 - W, 9-7 (Home)
Streak: Dartmouth, 1-0
Last Dartmouth Win: Last Meeting 


PHILADELPHIA - The old expression 'defense wins championships' may not always be true, but the Dartmouth women's lacrosse team sure did a good job on Friday night against Cornell of living by that adage.

Key defensive stops at crucial junctures in the weekend's first semifinal of the 2012 Ivy League Tournament saw the second-seeded Big Green advance to Sunday's title game with a 9-8 win over the Big Red.

The hosts from Penn punched its ticket to the championship game with a 9-5 win over the fourth-seeded Crimson from Harvard in the second game of the day, an affair that ended just before the skies opened and heavy rains were accompanied by a display of lightning behind the Philadelphia skyline.

With Dartmouth leading by a goal in the final minute, Cornell took control and brought the ball up the field. However, a strong defense all day was even better to offset the Big Red's final push. Looking for the equalizer to force just the second overtime game in the short history of the league tournament, the team from Ithaca was met by a wall of defenders.

Cornell tried to push the ball behind the net and look for open attackers cutting through the middle, but found itself unable to set up. It then tried taking the ball out to the top and make a play on goal from there, but again was met by a swarming Big Green defense. Unable to get an open look, the Big Red were held without a shot on goal in those final seconds as the clock ticked down to all zeros, sending the Dartmouth bench onto the field in celebration.

Now, that celebratory feeling is in the past and the focus is now shifted to Sunday's opponent and the levity of the situation. The winner will gain the Ivy League's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, while the other waits for the selection show Monday to see their fate.

Game time is set for noon.

In the regular season contest between these two teams, Dartmouth snapped a six-game winless stretch to Penn with a 9-7 victory in Hanover on April 14. A Sarah Plumb (Wellesley, Mass.) goal in the final minutes proved to be the winner as the Big Green answered the call in the late stages of the game to improve to 5-0 in league play to that point.

This will mark the second time in the three-year history of the Ivy League Tournament that Dartmouth will meet up with Penn in the final. In the inaugural 2010 tourney, the Quakers narrowly edged the Big Green, 9-8, to claim the league's first postseason championship, held at nearby Franklin Field.

Against the Big Red in the semifinals, three Dartmouth players scored twice. Plumb, Kirsten Goldberg (Cockeysville, Md.) and junior Hana Bowers (Old Greenwich, Conn.) all found the back of the net two times to help propel Dartmouth to Sunday's final.

The Big Green tied the Ivy League Tournament record for draw controls in a game with 15 Friday afternoon. Leading the way was Plumb, whose six were an individual tournament record. Senior Hilary Smith (Bronxville, N.Y.) was not far back, finishing the day with four draws, while five other players added one. Penn had 15 against Princeton in the 2010 semifinals as well.

Sophomore goalkeeper Kristen Giovanniello (Old Brookville, N.Y.) stopped eight shots in the win over Cornell. Included in those eight stops were six in the first half, while the Big Red pushed hard get even after falling behind 4-0 early on to the second seed. In her postseason debut last year, the Dartmouth goalkeeper was only credited with one save in a one-goal loss to Harvard, a far cry from her strong showing in the 2012 opener.

The Dartmouth defense was all the more impressive when taken into account that Cornell's offense was the top-ranked unit in the Ivy League this season, scoring just over 14 goals per game. Only four times this season were the Big Red held to 10 or fewer goals, including twice by the Big Green in two wins.