While most Penn students enjoyed a restful week off from classes to return to their families, Penn men’s lacrosse got down to business. The Red and Blue (4-2) played three games in seven days, winning two, to close out the first part of its schedule before Ivy play begins.
The Quakers first faced off against then-No. 20 Penn State (5-2) on March 5, playing a great game on both sides of the ball and dominating the Nittany Lions on their way to an 11-7 victory. The Quakers were led by sophomore Reilly Hupfeldt with three goals while sophomore Connor Keating and freshman Tyler Dunn both put up two goals. Senior captain Nick Doktor added a goal and two assists for the Red and Blue.
Three days later, the Quakers were back at it again at Franklin Field, rolling to a 12-6 victory against unranked Lafayette (1-4). Junior Kevin Brown had a breakout performance against the Leopards, scoring his first four goals of the season. Doktor showed why he was named to the Tewaaraton Award watch list — for the award given to the top collegiate lacrosse player — earlier this season by tying a career high with five assists while adding two goals of his own for a seven-point performance.
The Red and Blue would go on to finish their busy spring break with a setback, however, falling, 16-8, against Philly rival Villanova. The 13th-ranked Wildcats (4-1) broke the game wide-open after Penn tied things up at 4-all at the half before going on a 6-1 run in the third quarter from which the Quakers could never recover.
The Penn defense was sliced up by brothers Jake and Joey Froccaro of Villanova, who scored seven and three goals respectively, to make up the majority of the Wildcat offense. The Quakers were led again by Hupfeldt with three goals, followed by two from freshman Alex Roesner.
Not to be overlooked, breakout freshman goalie Reed Junkin has put up crucial performances in net all season long, and the spring break games proved no different. Already a two-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week winner, Junkin posted 44 saves across the three games while allowing just 27 goals for an impressive .620 save percentage — including a 16-save performance against Lafayette where he allowed just 4 goals before coming out for senior Jimmy Sestilio. As of March 11, he is ranked third in the nation with 14.75 saves per game.
“It’s really all mental for Reed,” Doktor said after the game against Penn State, where Junkin put up 15 saves for a .682 save percentage. “Coming in as a freshman, he definitely has more than enough ability and more than enough talent, so I think his performance is really a credit to the mental ability that he has to stay calm and composed under pressure. He makes a lot of tough saves look easy, so he has a lot of confidence in himself and we’re all really confident in him, and he’s been playing great for us all year.”
“Reed has just kept it simple,” Penn coach Mike Murphy added. “We’ve focused a lot on the little things with him in terms of seeing the ball and attacking the ball, and he’s a pretty big, athletic kid. He’s comfortable and he knows that his job isn’t to make every save, so he’s been doing a great job for us so far.”
Penn is going to need Junkin to continue putting up big performances if they hope to see success for the rest of the year. The Ivy League is home to some of the nation’s most prolific offenses, with Brown leading the nation with 17.75 goals per game and Yale following behind at number 10 with 13 per game, while Harvard is home to one of the nation’s most dangerous players in Devin Dwyer.
Although the Penn offense has done an effective job of spreading the wealth among many different weapons this season, the team has yet to put up more than 12 goals in any of its 5 contests so far this season. So in a conference with so much firepower, Junkin will have to continue putting up incredible performances if the Red and Blue hope to maintain their NCAA tournament aspirations.
The team will begin its conference campaign next Saturday at Princeton at 1 p.m.
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