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Dragons defeat top-25 ranked Nittany Lions in Statement Win | The Triangle
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Dragons defeat top-25 ranked Nittany Lions in Statement Win

Photo Courtesy of Sideline Photos

Drexel Women’s Lacrosse earned a crucial win over #25 ranked Penn State 10-8 on Feb. 28. It was the third straight game the Dragons faced a top 25 ranked team following a close loss to their University City neighbor UPenn, and loss to #5 Maryland. The Dragons were led in scoring by last year’s CAA attacker of the year, Corinne Bednarik, who notched five goals for her squad.

It was the Nittany Lions who scored first behind a goal from freshman Kelly MacKinney, but Drexel’s defense led by Belle McHugh and Camryn Ryan limited Penn State early on. Following the first goal of the day by Bednarik, Penn State was able to take a two score lead thanks to goals from seniors Gretchen Gilmore and Cam Evetts, leaving the first quarter with a 3-1 advantage for PSU.  

The second quarter opened with a very different Drexel offense, as a sharp Bednarik pass to Molly Weygand allowed the Dragons to put it within one. They wasted little time tying the game, as just 30 seconds later, junior Anna Maria Gragnani assisted Bednarik for her second goal of the game. 

Just minutes later, the Dragons continued their hot streak behind a big spin move and goal from sophomore Kate Marano, which was complemented by some strong play from sophomore goalie Jenika Cuocco. 

Cuocco is a name Drexel fans should learn, as the red shirt sophomore has made her impact felt in her young career so far. Last season, Cuocco started all 18 games in goal for the Dragons, earning widespread recognition as the CAA rookie of the year and goalie of the year. This season, the sophomore goalie’s 60.7% save percentage ranks her as the second best goalie in the nation, following only Michigan’s Erin O’Grady. 

The second quarter concluded in a chaotic way, as a Meghan Murray goal for the Nittany Lions once again tied the game up, followed by a flurry in which Drexel’s Allison Drake drained a goal with 54 seconds remaining, which was followed quickly by an Ally Lipkin goal for Penn State, which re-tied the game at 5 a piece entering the half.

The second half opened with two strong saves by the aforementioned Cuocco, who would end her day with 11 saves on 19 shots on goal, a great day for the goalie. Under five minutes into the third quarter, the Dragons took advantage of the games first green card, as Gragnani helped the Dragons reclaim the lead via the assist from the freshman Bea Buckley. 

As the third quarter continued, Penn State’s Meghan Murphy added her second of the game, once again tying it up. Later, Bednarik would add her third goal giving the edge to DU, which was followed by another Gragnani goal. The Dragons would then close out the quarter with another goal from a familiar face in Bednarik, who scored her fourth of the day, exiting the third quarter up 9-6. 

The fourth quarter was not as strong for the Dragons, as they allowed Brooke Hoss to score off an Alex Wall yellow card, and later allowed a Meghan Murray goal to make it a 9-8 Drexel lead. With the Nittany Lions on the verge of a comeback, it was once again Bednarik who found an opening with just over a minute to play, scoring her fifth goal, and securing the win for Drexel, 10-8.

It was a big win for the Dragons, who now sit 3-2 entering their upcoming game in Annapolis against Navy on March 6, but maybe an even bigger win for head coach Katie O’Donnell. 

O’Donnell is in her first full season as Drexel’s head coach after serving as the interim coach over the past two seasons. While beating a ranked opponent was motivation enough for the Dragons to topple the Nittany Lions, Coach O’Donnell likely had some extra desire to earn the win as she played her illustrious college career at Penn State, where she led the program to the Final Four in 2016 and 2017. With Wednesday’s win, O’Donnell both defeated her former coach Missy Doherty, and added a major win to Drexel’s resume.