At Franklin Field, a sweet goodbye
Dismantling of Dartmouth in final home game secures No. 2 seed in playoffs
April 25, 2011, 4:34 am · Updated April 25, 2011, 12:00 am·
Prior to his final home game at Penn, senior defenseman Brett Hughes told his teammates they had made a lot of memories at Franklin Field, but it was time to make one more.
With a definitive 9-4 victory over Dartmouth (5-8, 1-4 Ivy), the Quakers (8-4, 4-2) did just that, closing out their most successful Ivy League season in five years and finishing their 2011 slate a perfect 6-0 at home.
For the 10 graduating players, Saturday’s Senior Day made for an atmosphere that was “pretty emotional before the game,” according to senior midfielder Corey Winkoff.
But Penn’s Ancient Eight finale was about more than just one class.
“We took the view of not necessarily being Senior Day, but this team’s last time together on Franklin Field,” senior attack Al Kohart said. “We’ve had a family attitude all year. It was this family’s last time on the field together.”
And on top of the festivities, the Red and Blue were competing for conference tournament prospects. By dominating the Big Green all afternoon, Penn secured an Ivy tournament berth and the No. 2 seed behind Cornell.
Play was sloppy in the early going as both teams adjusted to the rain-soaked turf.
Though Dartmouth struck first on a goal from Chris Costabile, it would be the Big Green’s only score in the first three quarters. Penn’s defense, led by goalie Brian Feeney, set the tone.
“[Brian] played probably the best game he’s played all year,” coach Mike Murphy said. “He had some huge saves early that allowed us to keep it even.”
With seven saves in the first half, Feeney anchored the defensive unit after losing defenseman Maxx Meyer to a leg injury midway through the second quarter.
Freshmen Reid Tudor and Alex Blonsky stepped in to replace Meyer and helped keep Dartmouth scoreless for over 45 minutes.
“When we had those guys step up, I felt like we didn’t miss much of a beat defensively,” Murphy said.
Keeping the ball out of their net allowed the Quakers time to find a rhythm offensively.
The Red and Blue rattled off four unanswered goals to close the half with a 4-1 lead. They then poured in three more scores at the end of the third quarter, at which point Winkoff had already racked up four assists for the game.
“We knew Corey was going to be our feeder and we have a bunch of great shooters on our team,” Kohart said. “Our offense realized [Dartmouth] couldn’t hang with us if we spread it out and let Corey get his looks.”
Just when it seemed the Quakers might coast to the final buzzer, the skies opened up before the beginning of the fourth quarter, drenching the field and players yet again.
Sensing the desperation, the Big Green took advantage of some fastbreaks and a man-up opportunity to net three shots in a row, closing the gap to 7-4 with under nine minutes to play.
“They got a couple cheap ones,” Hughes said. “But we just kept sticking to the plan and we eventually stopped them again.”
After catching the Dartmouth goalie wandering outside his crease, junior attack John Conneely dumped in a shot to make it 8-4. Kohart put the icing on the cake shortly after, scoring the final goal of the game.
The Quakers visit Virginia next weekend for their final regular-season matchup, and travel to Ithaca, N.Y., the following week for tournament play.
But as Murphy said, for now, the team will enjoy the Dartmouth victory and the guarantee of an extra week together as a team.
“Earlier in the season, we were expected to go 2-11 on the season — I think it was Inside Lacrosse — and it was a slap in the face,” Kohart said. “To go undefeated on our home field where the sweat, blood and tears have poured out from us, it’s a great feeling.”