After a history-reversing upset win against Princeton last week, the Penn men’s lacrosse team was riding high.
All it took was a few bad bounces to send the Quakers back to reality.
Going up against No. 2 Cornell, the No. 9 Red and Blue (5-2, 1-1 Ivy) found themselves playing catch-up with the Big Red (7-1, 2-0) all game long, leading to a 10-5 loss.
Though Cornell came into the game with the top-scoring offense in the nation, averaging 15.17 goals per game, the Quakers were able to slow down the Big Red attack early, keeping the game scoreless for the first 10 minutes.
With about five minutes left to go in the first quarter, though, Cornell broke through in a way that left the Red and Blue shaking their heads.
After a pair of shots pinged off the post, Big Red senior attack Rob Pannell picked up the loose rebound and fired it past junior goalie Brian Feeney to give Cornell a 1-0 lead that set the tone for things to come.
“Not exactly a play [Cornell] drew up,” coach Mike Murphy said. “Good, aware play by [Pannell], and that just kind of kickstarted things.”
With the first points on the board, the Big Red began a scoring flurry that put the Quakers at what proved to be an insurmountable disadvantage.
Though attack Matt Machucki tied the game at one a mere eight seconds after Pannell’s opening tally, and Zack Losco notched the first of his two goals on the day, the Big Red added three more goals in the final 2:58 of the first quarter to take a 4-2 edge.
With the first period in the books, it seemed as if Penn was destined for an offensive shootout. But the Red and Blue buckled down, holding Cornell to one goal apiece in the second and third quarters.
Despite outshooting Cornell in the second quarter, 12-11, the Quakers were unable to slot anything by Big Red goalie A.J. Fiore for much of the game, causing the Red and Blue to face a 6-2 deficit as they opened the final quarter.
Murphy was left disappointed by the opportunities his offense missed.
“We outshot them and didn’t convert,” Murphy said. “I think that second quarter was huge in that regard, just because we were playing good offense, generating good shots and just not hitting them.”
Things fell apart for Penn in the game’s final stanza. Big Red attack Steve Mock scored three of his game-high four goals in the fourth quarter, which was more than enough to offset Losco’s second scoring effort of the day, along with goals from senior captain Tim Schwalje and freshman Nick Doktor.
The Red and Blue were outshot by a wide margin, 44-30, and lost too many ground balls, 45-34, but the day was not without positives.
Pannell, the 2011 USILA National Player of the Year, scored twice and became Cornell’s all-time leading point scorer with an assist on one of Mock’s goals in the fourth quarter, but he was kept largely in check by senior defense Anthony Santomo, a huge accomplishment for the Red and Blue.
“[Pannell’s] a great competitor,” Santomo said. “But we got him just like any other guy. We broke down a lot of film … I felt comfortable going into the game.”
But the individual victory does little to remove the bitter taste in the Quakers’ mouths, who will next face Yale at Franklin Field next Saturday.
“Hats off to them. They played hard. They played a good game,” Santomo said. “But I think all of us hope to see them again in the Ivy League tournament.”