In the early stretches of the season, members of Penn men’s lacrosse appear to be channeling Jekyll and Hyde. And, against Virginia on Sunday, the team’s lesser side showed up.
Like their home opener against Michigan, the Red and Blue’s road matchup against No. 11 Virginia was a tale of two halves. After two quarters of closely contested lacrosse, the Cavaliers blew the game open, clinching a 15-10 victory over the Quakers (1-1).
The initial stages of the game showed promise despite Virginia’s persistent offensive onslaught. Freshman goalie Reed Junkin, recently named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his brilliant performance against Michigan, was a key factor in Penn’s survival of Virginia’s fierce attack.
The first quarter alone saw 16 shots sent Junkin’s way, and the rookie saved nine of them to keep it at a 3-3 tie heading into the second period. After seven minutes of high-scoring play, including goals from freshman Joe Licciardi and sophomore Reilly Hupfeldt, the action slowed down. The Quakers entered the half down just one.
The third quarter, however, would prove to be decisive in securing the win for the Cavaliers (2-2). Buoyed by senior attacker James Pannell and junior defender Tanner Scales, both members of the Tewaaraton Award watch list, Virginia ripped off a 5-0 run while holding Penn scoreless for over eighteen minutes of play.
Hupfeldt stopped the bleeding with a goal with four minutes to go in the period and senior captain Nick Doktor brought the score to 11-7, giving the Quakers some hope. In the final period, however, Virginia quickly squashed any chances of a comeback. Pannell, recently drafted by the New York Lizards of Major League Lacrosse, ended the day with a hat trick and two assists, ensuring that Virginia ably bounced back from an overtime upset loss to High Point.
With such a young team, it was inevitable that the experience, or lack thereof, of Penn’s squad would be their undoing. In stark contrast with the savvy of Virginia’s upperclassmen, the Red and Blue rely on a lineup stocked with rookie talent.
“I think it affected the way we didn’t respond to the first five minutes of the third quarter. And we had guys missing looks that we normally should make,” coach Mike Murphy said. “The freshmen have only played two college games, so they’re still adjusting to the pace of play. What we’re trying to create here are championship habits. Those are still developing in those younger guys.”
Although it was the second-half run that sunk the Quakers, Virginia dominated statistically across the board. While Penn recorded 35 shots, 25 ground balls and 8 face-offs, the Cavs recorded 48 shots, 34 ground balls and 19 face-offs.
“We’re definitely going to focus on the face-offs,” Murphy said. “We got killed in the face-offs and that’s definitely an area where we need to shore some things up. In the third quarter, they were basically playing ‘make it, take it.’”
As Penn progresses through the season and continues to take on nationally-ranked opponents, inconsistency and inexperience could spell their downfall. The Quakers hope to avoid a losing streak in their next matchup against in-state rivals No. 12 Penn State on Saturday.
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