Tough and exciting times are in store for the Penn men’s lacrosse team.
The Quakers kick off their season this Friday night at Franklin Field against No. 14 Duke.
Aside from the Blue Devils, the Red and Blue have an impressive schedule lined up in front of them. The beginning of their season is peppered with big games against the likes of Denver and Lehigh.
And of course, this all leads up to matchups against some other tough Ivy League rivals in the later half of the season.
“We’ve tried to schedule the toughest out-of-conference games we can,” coach Mike Murphy said. “It prepares us for our Ivy Leagues later … and our guys just like to play against the best teams.”
Perhaps the most exciting event to look forward to is the inaugural Whitman’s Sampler Independence Classic organized by Inside Lacrosse Magazine.
In the second game of the Mar. 9 collegiate tripleheader, the Quakers will face Villanova on neutral field at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., home of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.
The game will be an exciting addition to this chapter of Penn’s rivalry with the Wildcats and is set to be televised to a nationwide audience on ESPN3.com.
It also marks the second straight year in which the Quakers compete in an Inside Lacrosse event.
Last spring, the Red and Blue went up against No. 6 Virginia in the inaugural Mile High Classic in Denver, Colo., losing 10-8 to the Cavaliers. This year, the team will return to the Mile High City to play against Denver at the start of spring break.
Following the Independence Classic, Penn has a week before meeting Princeton at home to kick off Ivy play.
After a rough 3-10, 1-5 Ivy season full of missed fourth-quarter chances and one-goal losses, the men are looking to redeem themselves and turn things around in 2013.
“[Our] goal every day is to improve,” junior defender Maxx Meyer said. “We had a rough season last year, [we’re] trying to use it as motivation to get a good start going this year … and really just to kind of turn it around from last season.”
While this might seem like a tough task, the Quakers are feeling optimistic with the hard work they’ve been putting in.
“It’s really about being mentally tough,” Meyer continued. “We lost a lot of games by one goal … we weren’t mentally tough in the fourth quarter, so this year we’ve been working really hard in fall ball and we’ve had a great preseason so far, so I think we’re ready.”
Those feelings appear to be mutual amongst the players and coaching staff.
“We’ve had three different scrimmages on different weekends and at both ends of the field, Brian Feeney’s played well in the goal, John Lopes played really well in the goal,” Murphy said. “Clearly we have a couple of guys who are going to be leaders for us and top producers, but it’s really hard to identify one guy as the frontrunner.”
Following the Princeton contest, the Red and Blue face a conference marathon, going up against a different Ivy opponent every weekend until the end of April, when they cap off their regular season against non-conference foe Bellarmine. The game will be played at Radnor High School as part of the Katie Samson Lacrosse Festival, a full-day fundraiser for spinal cord research.
The Ivy League Tournament on May 3 and May 5 this year will once again feature the top four regular season teams.