After two Ivy losses and with its back against the wall, No. 13 Penn men’s lacrosse returned to action on Saturday searching for its first conference victory against No. 14 Yale.
And the Red and Blue got it, picking up a season-saving victory over the Elis, 6-5.
The natural question is, what changed?
The answer is simple: Penn’s defense stepped up and played the way it did earlier in the season during its big wins against other ranked teams.
“We were just better on defense and Brian [Feeney] was better in goal,” coach Mike Murphy said. “All week, [we had] been refocusing on the fundamentals and how we play team defense, and we played some good defense earlier in the year.
“We played good defense against Duke and pretty good defense against St. Joe’s and Denver, and so we were just trying to get back to that.”
Against No. 2 Cornell on March 22, the Quakers (4-3, 1-2 Ivy) allowed 17 goals , but only let in five this past weekend.
The game began with a goal from Yale’s Eric Scott, but Penn quickly answered with a goal from senior midfield Drew Belinsky .
The first period saw another back-and-forth goal exchange. Yale’s second score was answered by one from another Penn senior midfield, Zack Losco .
With 11 seconds remaining in the first half, the Bulldogs (4-3, 1-2) scored again to reclaim the lead heading into halftime.
In the third period, the Quakers were able to catch up with Yale , evening the score at four apiece with one quarter to play.
“A lot of [the win] came down to being a bit tougher than Yale was,” Murphy said. “We were down 4-2 and came back and got the lead.”
Though it took a while, the Red and Blue were finally able to capture a lead when junior attack Isaac Bock scored his second goal of the game. Sophomore attack Nick Doktor followed Bock’s score and pushed the Quakers’ lead to two with 3:35 remaining.
The Bulldogs tried to make a comeback and scored once but were unable to finish the job, leading to a 6-5 finish and a big win for the Red and Blue.
“We just kept doing the same thing,” Murphy said. “It’s not like you change defense or move to a different defense and we gave them one at the end, but for the most part we just had a good week of practice on defense and were focused on that.
“It took a while for us to keep playing our game. We stuck to the game plan to get the lead like that and it was great.”
Penn was able to get the win it needed against the Elis. The Red and Blue sit tied for fourth in the Ancient Eight with both Yale and Princeton, and are now halfway through their Ivy slate.
While it is still too early to tell what Penn’s fate will be this season, if the team plays the way it did against Yale, it could very easily climb up in the rankings and finish better than its 3-3 conference record last season.
But only time will tell, and the Quakers’ next test will be this Saturday at Franklin Field against third-place Brown.