Penn Finding Their Stride After a Rough Start

19_Handley_Maryland
Photo Courtesy of Penn Athletics                                                                                                                      

Penn defeated Ivy League foe and rival Princeton 19-10 on Saturday, and in pretty convincing fashion. The Quakers got out early and after the Tigers started to come back in the second period, they went full steam ahead in the second half, routing the Tigers and sealing the deal. 

If you watched just that performance you would have though the Quakers had been playing at the level if not all season, most of it. In fact, the Penn team that we have seen the past few weeks in much different from the Penn we saw early on. This team has improved, matured, and seems to be “coming of age” to an extent at this point in the season. 

A big part of that is the competition they faced early on in the season. The Quakers opened the season at home against Maryland before going on the road at Duke and Penn State the next few weeks. Those are three teams that most would agree are in the conversation of national championship contenders. 

In those three game the Quakers didn’t look bad by any stretch. Against Maryland they came back in the fourth quarter and forced overtime, where they eventually lost. The Quakers only lost to Penn State by a goal, but they were “blown out” against Duke. Besides the Penn State game where it was close the whole way through, a common theme was letting the opposing team get hot early on and failing to complete a comeback. 

That all changed the weekend of the Philly 4 Lacrosse Classic. Penn played Villanova on Friday, March 10th and Saint Joseph’s on Sunday, March 12th. In those two games fans got to see a Penn team that could put a whole game together and finally get some wins. 

Penn made headlines on Friday when they took down a Villanova team that was ranked number 11 at the time. Penn was able to get off to a hot start and take a 7-5 lead heading into the half. Although Villanova did go on a few big runs of their own, Penn was able to counter in later on in the third and fourth quarter. Penn pulled out their first win of the season in that game, beating Villanova 13-11. 

Much of the same could be said about the Quaker’s 13-6 win over St. Joseph’s just two days later. While St. Joseph’s isn’t what some would call a “high level” team this year, they are solid and can certainly cause some damage. Penn was able to get out to a huge 9-2 halftime lead and they once they got up they never looked back for a second, scorching the Hawks to earn their second win of the year. 

Those two wins over Villanova and St. Joseph’s earned Penn a much deserved spot in the top 20 at the number 20 spot. While those two wins were impressive, their next win raised even more eyebrows, not for the fact that they won but how they won. 

The Quakers stunned rival and Ivy foe Princeton in a 19-10 home win on Saturday, March 16th to open Ivy League play. After starting the game strong and getting out to a 6-5 halftime leaf, Penn found themselves trailing 7-6 early in the third. That is when and where the Quakers decided that they would not give up. Penn exploded in the third to take a 12-8 lead into the fourth. The Quakers kept dominating in almost every facet of the game, and most certainly offense, to route Princeton and secure the win. 

Penn saw Adam Goldner score 5 goals, while Sean Lulley and Sam Handley each tallied 5 points (2G,3A). Kyle Gallagher went 20-30 at the faceoff dot and Reed Junkin did his thing, making 18 saves in cage for the Quakers. 

A big piece of this win and their other successes was the younger players that were able to step up in addition to the older guys. Sure Simon Mathais is going to get his every game and Reed Junkin has looked like a stud since a freshman, but guys like BJ Farrare, Sam Handley, and Sean Lulley have really stepped up as freshman and sophomores that can cause a lot of damage. 

Handley, a freshman attackman, is the team’s second leading scorer with 22 points (10G,12A) thus far. Sophomore attackman Sean Lulley isn’t much further behind with 15 points on the season. BJ Farrare came in with high-praise as an Under Armour All-American, and the freshman D/LSM has lived up to the hype, leading the team in caused turnovers and tallying 5 points (3G,2A) thus far. 

The Quakers are on a three-game winning streak at the moment and hope to extend that this weekend against a good Cornell team. They will need to be able to stay in a game the whole way through on both ends and the mix and depth of production will have to be there. 

Penn has seemed to hit their stride right now and it’ll be interesting to see if they can continue in this direction as they get further into the season and into Ivy League play. 

 

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