Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 22
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
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(Photo courtesy of Penn’s Office of Athletic Communications.)

HAPPY WARRIOR: Former Hun School girls’ lacrosse star Tarah Kirnan smiles in her media guide photo for the University of Pennsylvania women’s lacrosse team. Kirnan completed her Penn career last weekend, helping the Quakers advance to the NCAA title game where they lost to four-time defending champion Northwestern 10-6. Kirnan, a former star attacker for Hun, was a mainstay of the Penn defense earning first-team All-Ivy league honors this spring as the Ivy champ Quakers went 17-2.

Former Hun Star Kirnan Sparks Defense as Penn Women’s Lax Takes 2nd in NCAAs

Bill Alden

For Tarah Kirnan, the mission was clear as she began her senior year on the University of Pennsylvania women’s lacrosse team.

“From the day we came in last September, our motto this year has been ‘in it to win it,’” said Kirnan, a former Hun School standout and star defender for Penn.

The second ‘it’ being pursued by Kirnan and her teammates was the NCAA women’s lacrosse championship.

Last weekend at Towson University, Penn came within an eyelash of achieving that lofty goal, rallying to nip Duke 9-8 in overtime in the NCAA semifinals before losing 10-6 to now four-time defending champion Northwestern in the championship game.

The Quakers’ road to the title game was paved by a stingy defense that entered last weekend giving up just six goals a game.

Kirnan, a high-scoring attacker in her days at Hun, was a mainstay of the defense, earning first-team All-Ivy honors this season as Penn went undefeated in Ivy League play.

In Kirnan’s view, the defense’s formula for success was pretty basic. “No one is afraid to push each other,” said Kirnan, reflecting on the unit that helped Penn finish the season at 17-2.

“We work all year together and we are close. We are not afraid to give constructive criticism; we love to be aggressive.”

It is easier for Kirnan to be aggressive with classmate Sarah Waxman in goal. “We know that Waxman always has our back,” added Kirnan.

“She knows that we will do our best to make sure that any shots the other team gets are low percentage.”

In Kirnan’s view, the Quakers had a higher percentage of success this past weekend given their experience in 2007 when they came out of nowhere to advance to the NCAA Final Four.

“Last year, the whole season was a whirlwind,” said Kirnan, recalling a season that ended when Penn fell to Northwestern in the national semis.

“It was so exciting and everything happened so quickly. We have been there, we have done that. We have learned from our mistakes. We have prepared a lot, we are much more focused than we were last year. In 2007, none of us had been to the NCAA before. We had been 8-7 the two seasons before that.”

Penn’s focus showed in the Duke game as the Quakers rallied from a 7-4 second half deficit to pull out the win over the Blue Devils.

“They have a really good attack,” said Kirnan. “They are really fast and we will have to stop their fast break. Our attack does a really good job of slowing down the ball and playing patiently. The ACC teams play run and gun and we try to slow it down.”

Slowing down Northwestern proved to be a harder proposition, although Penn brought plenty of confidence into the contest, having stunned the Wildcats 11-7 in the regular season, giving them their only loss of the season.

“They have always been No. 1; I think what drove us was losing to them in the Final Four last year and our goal to be national champion,” said Kirnan, recalling the teams’ regular season meeting, which saw Penn outscore Northwestern 6-0 in the second half.

“It was an incredible game; it was one of those games where everybody played their best game. Waxman made some incredible saves; the attack played really smart.”

While the loss to Northwestern in the rematch smarts, Kirnan is a changed person as the result of her Penn lacrosse experience.

“I think I have gained so much confidence,” said Kirnan, who will be remaining at Penn as a graduate student in environmental studies.

“I’m so close with the team; I think what I will miss the most is coming out everyday and working for a long-term goal.”

Although Kirnan didn’t achieve her ultimate lacrosse goal, she certainly put in a lot of good work in her Penn career.

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