A tough start to Dan Savage's final year
Senior attack Savage has had to carry the offense as Penn still tries to find its groove
March 27, 2012, 10:20 pm · Updated March 30, 2012, 12:26 am·
Michael Chien | DP
Not every athlete can cap off his last year in style.
For men’s lacrosse senior Dan Savage, going out in style would have meant racking up wins and improving upon last year’s 8-5 campaign and berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“That hasn’t been happening lately,” Savage admitted.
Instead, Savage, who entered the year on the Tewaaraton Award Watch List for the top player in the country, finds his team with only one win in six games and consistently struggling on offense in what has been, no doubt, a disappointing start to the year.
Don’t blame Savage though. He leads the Quakers in both goals (10) and total points (15), remaining an offensive threat while transitioning from midfield to attack midseason. His hat trick against No. 8 North Carolina earlier this month sparked a rousing upset over the Tar Heels to provide the highlight of the Quakers’ season so far.
“Our offense has been inconsistent, but Dan’s always been a steady force,” coach Mike Murphy said. “We moved him from midfield down to attack because we just needed a little bit steadier force down there, somebody who could be secure with the ball and help us gain possession.”
“So far, it’s been a good move,” Savage said. “We’ve been able to hold the ball a little bit more on the offensive end since the move, so I think it’s been helping out the offense.”
But even more important than Savage’s ability to secure possessions has been his knack for cashing in on them.
“The bigger thing he’s done for us is add punch to our offense,” Murphy said. “He’s very dangerous.”
However, despite Savage’s best efforts, the Quakers have been consistently limited by their offense. Penn has been outshot and lost the majority of their faceoffs in five of its six games, resulting in fewer offensive possessions.This has made the team more dependent on Savage and fellow senior John Conneely to score goals.
“We’re really close,” Savage said. “Our offense played great, and we struggled a little bit in the fourth quarter in our last game [a 16-11 loss to No. 4 Cornell]. But we haven’t put everything together yet, and that’s the most frustrating thing. If we did, we’d be a great team.”
Yet there’s still hope for the Quakers. Although five of their first six opponents were ranked in the top 16, only one of Penn’s final five opponents are ranked in the top 20. And the Quakers have pulled off late-season rallies before. Last year, they won three of their final four games to sneak into the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid.
They’ll have to pull off an even bigger turnaround this time around to land Savage and the rest of the seniors in the championship tourney and give them a chance to represent Penn there one last time.