Another week, another one-goal battle.
In a conference with six teams that have been ranked in the top 20, even the bottom-feeders are serious threats. The men’s lacrosse team learned as much this weekend in its third-straight game decided by one goal — and the Quakers ended up on the wrong end once again against Brown.
The Bears dominated the second and third quarters and held off a comeback to surprise the Quakers, 13-12. In the process, Brown dealt a tough blow to the Red and Blue’s regular season title and NCAA tournament hopes.
As far as sports cliches go, “score early on the road” is at the proverbial summit. The Quakers did just that with a strong first period. Goals from senior captains Al Kohart and Corey Winkoff propelled Penn to a 5-2 lead.
Senior defenseman Brett Hughes said the Quakers (5-4, 2-2 Ivy) were on the right track after the early lead, given Brown’s recent struggles.
“I felt that if we got out to an early lead, we could get them thinking, ‘Oh no, here we go again,’ he said. “But I give them all the credit. They kept fighting.”
And fight they did. The Bears (4-6, 1-2) responded to the tune of 10 combined goals in the second and third periods. Brown opened the second with a four-goal run and led, 8-6, at intermission.
Penn struck for two quick goals out of the break. Junior Alek Ferro and sophomore Nick Richards both scored in just over 30 seconds to tie the game at eight. Brown’s defense quickly got back in the groove and shut out the Quakers for the next 16 minutes.
The Bears’ offense responded in kind, finishiwng the third period on a 5-0 run. With the score at 13-8, Brown had the Red and Blue in a huge fourth-quarter hole.
“It was a combination of things — they made good adjustments and we didn’t play as well as we could,” Hughes said. “I couldn’t point to just one area.”
“Our defense executed pretty poorly,” coach Mike Murphy added.
The statistics suggest the same. In the middle quarters, the Bears outshot Penn, 26-11, won 10 of 14 faceoffs and recovered 23 of 30 ground balls.
“Our offense couldn’t play well because we rarely had the ball. [Brown] won faceoffs and got ground balls,” Murphy explained. “[Brown was] holding the ball in the zone so often that our defense eventually wore down.”
With 9:39 left in the game, Kohart finally broke through for the Quakers, igniting a furious Red and Blue rally. Penn added three more unanswered goals, two by senior Morgan Griff, cutting the Bears’ lead down to one with just 32 seconds left.
The Quakers grabbed the final faceoff and got two looks on goal, but the equalizer would not come and Brown held on for the 13-12 win.
“If we had more time, maybe we’d come back and force overtime,” Murphy said.
Hughes pointed out that the Ivy League tournament, in which the winner advances to the NCAAs, may have helped the slumping Bears stay motivated.
“Brown still has a chance. They knew it and played like it,” he said.
For Penn, the road to the postseason may also ride on the Ivy tournament. With two more league games remaining, the Quakers hope their fourth-quarter performance — rather than the ugly second and third — carries over into the tourney.