The Quakers have been absolutely bombarded with top-ranked opponents to open the season.
Five of the Penn men’s lacrosse team’s first six opponents were ranked No. 16 or higher. Its only unranked opponent at gametime, Lehigh, now sits at No. 7 in the nation.
And in the process the Red and Blue have managed only one win and fallen out of the rankings themselves.
But hope lurks around the corner Saturday when Penn (1-5, 0-2 Ivy) takes on Yale (2-4, 0-2) in New Haven, Conn.
On paper, both teams look fairly even. This year, both teams sit in the Ancient Eight basement. And the last five encounters between them have been decided by two goals or less, with three games going into overtime.
This season, the two squads have shared three common opponents: Lehigh, Cornell and Princeton. Both teams lost all three, but Yale fell by a combined scored of 29-23, while Penn’s margin of defeat was 37-19.
But Penn coach Mike Murphy can’t worry about these kind of statistics. He is only concerned about what his team does Saturday.
“We haven’t really put a game together yet where we played together as a unit, whether it’s clearing and riding as a 10-men unit, or offense, defense and that in all phases,” Murphy said.
“Yale is a pretty complete team,” he added. “Their attack is good, their midfield is good and their defense is good so we have to be prepared in every area.”
If the Red and Blue want to turn their season around and finish with a winning record — which, with the schedule being considerably less difficult in the second half, is certainly a possibility — two questions remain to be answered.
First, can the last-ranked offense of the Ivy League repeat the same effort it displayed against Cornell last week? More importantly, can it do it for an entire game?
“The biggest thing for us this week is putting it together for all four quarters,” junior attacker Tim Schwalje said. “We showed against Cornell that we have firepower to come out strong and now we just need to make it last and put it all together for 60 minutes.”
Furthermore, even if the Quakers manage to perform better on offense than their statistics indicate — last in the Ivy League in goals, assists, ground balls, points and shots per game — they will also have to avoid imploding on defense as they did against the Big Red last week, when they allowed eight goals in the final quarter.
“That’s something we kind of worked on this week, for all of our team to be on the same page,” Schwalje said. “We definitely preached this week about going hard and fast, especially going against this defense.”
For coach Murphy, the recipe for success against the Elis is simple.
“We don’t have to play great, we just have to play well, in all phases, for 60 minutes.”
It’s become the team’s monotonous mantra: play well for an entire game.
Saturday, they’ll need to finally put their words into action to leave New England with a much-needed ‘W.’