A losing season can be like eating horseradish by itself — an intensely dislikeable, yet oddly refreshing experience that reminds a team not to do it again.
Only coach Mike Murphy seems to have resisted swallowing this season’s bitter herbs, choosing instead to consistently keep the Penn lacrosse team’s play this year, however bad, in perspective.
Even when the squad was 1-8, he insited that it was a good team, that the record didn’t reflect its skill and that when offense and defense finally played well in the same game, people would know the team’s true potential.
Now with their first winning streak of the year, the Quakers (3-8, 1-4 Ivy) have a strong shot at making the Ivy Tournament if they put together a victory in their final Ivy game against Dartmouth (2-8, 0-4) on Saturday. But Murphy is not wavering from his critical perspective.
“We won two games, but it’s not like we’re feeling all that great about it,” he said. “We’re still looking for the allusive full game at both ends of the field.”
Murphy feels that the squad’s defense in its 13-11 win over Harvard on Saturday was lacking. And he feels similarly about the team’s offense in its 9-5 victory over St. Joe’s. He espouses a balanced outlook, regardless of record.
“It’s not like the switch has flipped and now everyone is happy and excited,” Murphy said. “I give the team credit for not being too down in the dumps when we were losing.”
However, freshman Joe McCallion says that the disappointing start to the season greatly affected the team.
“It definitely makes us realize how painful losing is,” he said. “Going forward, everyone is going to take that to heart.”
According to McCallion, the squad held a players-only meeting before the Harvard game, the last home game of the year, led by the seniors, as they prepared to play at Franklin Field for the final time.
“Certain guys on the team stepped up who we never really thought would step up,” McCallion said. “That really led us that week at practice to just win one for the seniors … Once we got the win over Harvard, it was like ‘Let’s keep this rolling.’”
Penn must beat Dartmouth to have a good chance of making the Ivy tournament. The Big Green have not won a game since their second of the season.
Fifth-place Brown (5-7, 1-3) has two games left and needs to lose both for Penn to earn a berth. The Bears play Cornell (9-1, 4-0), which is undefeated in-conference, and Dartmouth.
Fresh off two victories, McCallion says that the team is at a peak of confidence.
“It’s definitely boosted the team’s morale,” he said.
The only way for the Quakers to make the NCAA tournament is to win the Ivy League torunament.
Considering the conference includes both No. 9 Cornell and No. 17 Princeton, it would be an extremely difficult task.
But first things first, the Quakers must defeat Dartmouth on Saturday to even enter into that conversation.