M. Lax sees growth in struggles
Quakers headed in the right direction after a season of several ups and downs
May 26, 2011, 4:35 am · Updated May 26, 2011, 12:00 am·
In the end, the Quakers couldn’t muster a second top-ten upset.
Penn’s quick exit from the NCAA tournament at the hands of No. 5 Notre Dame was disappointing, but did not diminish an otherwise wildly successful season for the Red and Blue. The Quakers 2011 campaign saw a second place Ivy League finish, and an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, the program’s first in four years. After a tough 2010 season where the Quakers went 1-5 in the Ivy League and 5-8 overall, the Quakers wasted no time setting the tone for a new season.
On the season’s opening weekend, Penn delivered a shocking upset of defending champion Duke leading to a jump to No. 14 in the national rankings.
“[It] was very unexpected. I didn’t see it coming, but I’m more than happy,” freshman backstop Brian Feeney stated after his first start.
This victory kicked off a three-game winning streak adding to the excitement generated from the against the Blue Devils.
However, the Red and Blue then faced the most difficult portion of their schedule — a five-game gauntlet against teams all ranked in the top 20.
The team struggled initially as North Carolina and Villanova each handed Penn a road loss, sending the Quakers to 3-2 and 18 in the rankings before the start of the Ivy League Season against rival Princeton.
The 11th-ranked Tigers came into Franklin field sporting a massive 21 game winning streak against the Quakers. However, the 2011 team changed all that as they notched a decisive 8-3 victory in front of a packed house on alumni day.
Senior captain Corey Winkoff emphasized the importance of this win by stating that, “There’s a plaque on our wall from the last time [we beat Pinceton].”
Penn split the final two games of the tough stretch, losing in overtime to powerhouse Cornell but posting a triple overtime win against Yale.
Halfway through their Ivy slate, the Quakers stood in second place in the Ivy League and 13th in the nation, prime position for a high seed in the Ivy League tournament and a berth in the NCAA tourney.
The Quakers concluded Ivy play with a 4-2 record, securing the second-place finish in the Ancient Eight. The Red and Blue also finished the season undefeated at the friendly confines of Franklin Field.
However, Penn was unable to follow its ranking to the Ivy Championship, falling to the Crimson in their opening round match.
The loss put the Quakers tournament hopes in serious jeopardy as they were forced to wait until the very end to receive their call to the final 16 to face the Fighting Irish.
While the season ultimately ended on a disappointing three-game losing streak, successes of this season indicate that the Red and Blue will be looking to make good on their goal to capture an Ivy League title and get back to the NCAA tournament.