With the season opener on Feb. 20 against Michigan around the corner, Penn men’s lacrosse is back to work and has already seen its first live action of 2016 against other teams.
On a brisk, sunny Saturday, the team competed in regulation game scrimmages against Mount St. Mary’s and Drexel at Franklin Field. Senior attack Nick Doktor was particularly excited to suit up again for his final season in the Red and Blue.
“We’ve been practicing now for the last couple weeks against ourselves, but it’s always good to go against somebody else,” Doktor said. “I thought we had a pretty good showing from top to bottom. Everyone got a chance to play, the offense looked pretty good, defense was very solid all day, goalies especially played well.”
Last season, coming off a 2014 campaign in which the Red and Blue won the Ivy League Tournament and earned an NCAA Championship tournament berth, the Quakers finished 6-7 overall and 3-3 in conference play in 2015, which tied them with Yale for fourth place in the Ancient Eight. Brown, Cornell and Princeton tied for first at 4-2 in conference play. Yale, the eventual Ivy League Tournament champion, overcame the parity in the conference in a tiebreaker to punch its ticket to the big dance. Cornell joined the Bulldogs in the NCAA tournament after securing an at-large bid.
In conference play last season, Penn’s offense proved explosive but its defense appeared to be a liability. While the Red and Blue averaged 11 goals per game against Ivy opponents, behind only Brown and Princeton, it also allowed 12.01 goals per game and had a aggregate save percentage of 47.9 percent, ahead of just Dartmouth.
The main subtractions due to graduation were co-captains defenseman Matt McMahon and midfield/attack Joe McCallion. McMahon, a three-year starter, was a first-team All-Ivy selection in his senior season and second-team the year prior. His 2.15 caused turnovers per game were tops in the Ivy League and third in the country. On the other end of the field, McCallion paced the Quakers with 22 goals along with 12 assists and earned honorable mention All-Ivy recognition.
The third player from Penn to make the All-Ivy teams last season, Doktor, will likely carry much of the scoring burden in 2016. Selected with 18th overall pick in the Major League Lacrosse Draft by the Charlotte Hounds, Doktor scored 21 goals and his 36 assists and 57 points were team-highs in 2015. In the ensuing two weeks before Michigan visits Franklin Field, he said the team aims to continue to round into midseason form.
“We’ve been on the right track since we got back,” he said. “We just want to improve the upward trend we’ve been on, keep improving offensively, our sets and spacing and timing.”
From coach Mike Murphy’s perspective, Saturday’s showing was “encouraging.” He spoke highly of the offseason program and first round of practices, and is pleased with the level of conditioning the team has at this point. In the meantime, he aims to work on fine-tuning some smaller issues in the next few weeks.
“I think our offense and defense were much sharper,” Murphy said. “I think our assistant coaches have done a great job in those areas and we were more prepared to play on day one than we’ve ever been before.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.