Less than a day after hundreds of students flocked to Franklin Field to experience the musical stylings of Chance the Rapper, Penn men’s lacrosse put on a show of its own.
On Saturday, a crowd which included a number of former players who returned to celebrate the team’s Alumni Day — took in an exciting, back-and-forth game. The Quakers faced Harvard in a crucial Ivy matchup that would secure the postseason fate of one team and leave the other’s hanging in the balance.
With a 14-13 win over the Crimson, Penn (6-5, 3-2 Ivy) clinched a berth to the Ivy League tournament, which could possibly in turn ensure the team’s inclusion in the NCAA Championships. Harvard (6-6, 2-2), meanwhile, dropped to fourth in the conference and will hope to regain its early-season form that catapulted them to a high of No. 7 in the national rankings.
The Crimson started the tilt off strong, taking a quick two-goal lead with points by Ian Ardrey and Joe Lang. But, in a run reflective of the contest’s vacillating nature, the Red and Blue responded with four straight scores, including Reilly Hupfeldt’s first in what would be a spectacular day for the sophomore. Harvard cut the deficit to one by the end of the first period, but Penn senior Nick Doktor and freshman Tyler Dunn put their team soundly on top, 6-4, as the halftime whistle blew.
After play restarted, however, Harvard dominated. Bolstered by the fancy footwork of Major League Lacrosse draftee Devin Dwyer — who ended the day with four goals — and the playmaking ability of Ardrey, the Crimson rattled off five unanswered goals to gain a 9-6 lead. On the defensive side of the field, Harvard locked down the Quakers’ attack with help from defenseman Stephen Jahelka.
Harvard’s hot streak did not last for long. Penn’s freshmen, whose offensive contributions have carried the team all season, delivered again. Dunn and Simon Mathias scored two crucial goals at the end of the third quarter to set up a closely contested fourth quarter.
Two Harvard penalties presented Penn with man-up opportunities, and the Quakers readily converted. A brilliant pass by Doktor found Hupfeldt mere inches away from the net, and the sophomore faked out Robert Shaw before calmly depositing the ball into the bottom of the goal.
Driven by their newfound momentum, the Quakers built a 12-9 lead off scores by freshman Alex Roesner, senior Pat Berkery and Hupfeldt, who completed his hat trick off another probing feed from Doktor.
Harvard came back again, tying the game with five minutes to play. Quakers’ long-stick midfield Connor Keating quickly broke the deadlock with a sublime individual effort after a face-off victory. The long-legged sophomore scampered down the field and let loose a running, left-handed shot that bounced its way into the goal.
Despite Keating’s heroics, however, his crucial turnover allowed Dwyer to easily overcome the outstretched stick of Penn freshman goalie Reed Junkin. In notching his fourth goal of the game on this transition opportunity, Dwyer tied the match for the fifth time and it seemed as if the game was destined for overtime.
The Quakers, however, had other plans.
Sophomore Chris Santangelo, who won 19 faceoffs in 27 opportunities on Saturday, gained possession for Penn after Dwyer’s goal. After several searching passes, Mathias penetrated the Harvard defense with a dodging run from the left wing.
With just 15 seconds to go, a quick pass found Hupfeldt with room to shoot about 15 yards out and, the attackman ripped a side-handed shot into the upper right corner of the net for his fourth and most important goal of the game. Harvard won the ensuing faceoff and scrambled to reach the goal, but a few hard checks from some Quakers’ defensemen sealed a memorable and vital victory for Penn.
The Red and Blue, flush with the satisfaction of their gritty triumph, will take on UMBC in a non-conference matchup on Tuesday. And, if they can show the same resolve and poise that they demonstrated on Saturday, dreams of postseason success could definitely become reality.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.