On a day marked by inexplicably high temperatures, Penn men’s lacrosse generated some heat of their own.
A sunny and balmy Franklin Field was the site of the Quakers’ season opener against Michigan on Saturday. A large crowd took in the first ever meeting between the two schools, a fact owed to Michigan’s very recent elevation to NCAA Division I play. Despite the infancy of the Wolverine’s program, which started in 2011, Saturday’s match was highly competitive, featuring several momentum shifts and bursts of scoring. In the end, Penn emerged victorious, 12-10.
The Red and Blue (1-0) trotted out a young group to start the day, with four out of 10 starters making their collegiate debuts. And, it would be Penn’s youth movement that would carry the day, ultimately providing the difference in a closely contested match.
Freshmen Simon Mathias, Alex Roesner and Joe Licciardi accounted for four of the Quakers’ goals, with Mathias tallying two for good measure. Mathias, part of a recruiting class ranked as one of the strongest in the country, started the season off with a bang, scoring after just a minute of play.
“It felt great. Spending all of the hours on the field, in the weight room and in practice all came together in that moment,” said Mathias of his first career scores.
The Quakers built on this initial lead, racking up three more goals to create a 4-1 advantage. Michigan, however, managed to even the score up by halftime, capitalizing on a Penn offense that became sluggish after a hot start.
The Wolverines were paced by senior attackman Kyle Jackson, the team’s reigning Offensive MVP, who recorded a hat trick on the day. Michigan was lead defensively by goalkeeper Gerald Logan, who was recently honored as the Big Ten Specialist of the Week and Lacrosse Magazine Player of the Week for his performance in a 9-8 win over Colgate. On Saturday, Logan was once again brilliant in net for the Wolverines, ending the match with 10 saves.
But, in one of the most unexpected developments of the day, Logan’s goalkeeping counterpart, Penn freshman Reed Junkin, was equally impressive. Junkin had 12 saves, ensuring that Penn’s offensive onslaught was supplemented by a dependable defensive presence.
Junkin’s performance was enough to withstand several defensive lapses by the Quakers, whose inconsistent performance resulted in a rollercoaster of a match.
After entering the half tied, the Red and Blue dominated the third period, scoring six unanswered goals to seemingly put the match out of reach. Along with the contributions of Penn’s freshmen, more seasoned players also played a significant role in achieving a win for the Red and Blue. Senior Nick Doktor, recently drafted by the Charlotte Hounds of Major League Lacrosse, scored two goals and served as the offensive leader of his squad.
Penn coach Mike Murphy commented on the third quarter run that proved crucial to the Quakers’ victory.
“We didn’t change anything drastically," he said. "At halftime, we talked about tightening things up on offense, spacing, speed and movement,” said Murphy. “I think that paid off and we kickstarted a lot in the transition.”
As they had in the second period, however, Michigan roared back, tallying six goals in the final period and four in the last five minutes. In the end, it was too little too late, as the buzzer signaled that Penn’s first match of the season was a successful one.
Next up for the Red and Blue is Virginia, who cruised to a win over Drexel on Saturday.
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