This spring break, Penn men’s lacrosse will be jetting off to beautiful, warm, tropical ... Pennsylvania.
With faceoffs against Penn State, Lafayette and Villanova before classes start up again, the Red and Blue (1-1) do indeed have a busy week ahead of them.
First up is No. 20 Penn State (3-1).
Just a year ago, the Red and Blue fell to Penn State 11-14. But much has changed since then. The main difference? The man in goal.
Although the 2015-16 season is young, freshman goalkeeper Reed Junkin has emerged as the Quakers’ starter between the pipes. The Massachusetts native quickly adjusted to collegiate level play and proved his utility in Penn’s first two match-ups, tallying 28 total saves in 120 minutes played.
“Reed has adjusted very well to the speed of the game,” Murphy said. “Obviously the shots come in a little harder than they do in high school.”
“But I think he can take a step forward in regard to leading the defense,” Murphy added.
Just a week ago, after his debut performance against Michigan, Junkin earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors with 12 total saves — four of which came in the first quarter of play.
“At this point we feel like Reed is our starter,” Murphy said. “All in all he’s done a great job, obviously making a lot of saves and playing well for us in the cage so we’re happy with where he is and how he’ll progress.”
Coming off a loss last weekend to No. 11 Virginia, the Quakers are hoping to improve upon some of the notable weak points that have emerged in the first two games of the season.
“We have not faced off well in the spring after facing off well in the fall,” coach Mike Murphy said. “It’s a little bit frustrating and a little bit mystifying as to why that is. So we spent a lot of time on it this week, we’re trying a few more guys and hopefully we’re better facing off.
“But it’s also very relative. Penn State is struggling facing off just like we are so if we do have success, I’m not going to think that we’ve solved all our problems but that we’ve performed better than we have to date.”
The Nittany Lions are also coming off a loss last weekend — to Penn’s neighbor and future foe, Villanova.
Junkin, like Murphy, noted that the Quakers can improve their faceoff game. But he also acknowledged that there are other areas of improvement for the Red and Blue too.
“Our clearing game wasn’t as good as it usually is,” Junkin said, “We’re usually close to 80-100 percent and last game we were not even close to that. So we definitely need to work on that.
“Defensive-wise, we need to lock down, not be top side too much because we got beat for six goals in that game, and we have to limit our turnovers.”
The Quakers will have three contests over break in which they can work towards perfecting these skills before Ivy play begins on March 19 against Princeton.
But the focus must be on taking one game at a time for the next three local match-ups. The first two will be held at Franklin Field, and the last at Villanova.
“We haven’t played a complete game yet,” Murphy said. “Hopefully we can put our best foot forward facing off and clearing and riding well on offense and defense.”
And luckily for Penn, its Philadelphia stay-cation of sorts gives them plenty of time to practice playing “complete games” over spring break.
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