The Quakers have been like lions the past two Marches -- going 5-2 in 1999 and 4-3 this year against stellar competition. Those auspicious starts have not translated into successful trips through the meat of the Ivy schedule, however. Penn has been lamblike in April. The Red and Blue went 1-5 last April and are 1-4 thus far this season with games against powerhouse Syracuse and Delaware left to play. The second month of spring has been the foil of coach Marc Van Arsdale's team over the past two seasons, preventing Penn from putting together the top-notch Ivy year that seemed imminent after the head man led his team to a 6-6, 3-3 campaign in 1997, his very first season in West Philadelphia. Van Arsdale is a friendly, down-to-earth person with a seemingly genuine concern for each and every one of his players. He looks and sounds the part of a perfect player's coach. He is highly regarded by his peers, and his teams have shown definite flashes of brilliance -- cracking the national top 15 in '99 and '00. But they have yet to put it all together. They have yet to seriously challenge for an Ancient Eight title. Last spring, the Quakers looked golden as March drew to a close. They captured attention in the lacrosse world by defeating a highly touted North Carolina team, 14-7, in their second game of the year and shut down Yale, 7-2, to open Ivy play. Carrying a No. 14 national ranking and a 5-1 record, the Red and Blue traveled to the green pastures of Harvard University to take on the Crimson on March 27. Penn walked away from Cambridge with a heartbreaking 10-9 defeat in overtime and its first Ivy loss of the season. And things just got more gut-wrenching from there. Penn wound up on the short side of all but one of its remaining Ivy games. And to make Quakers fans wince, Brown's 10-6 win over Penn was the only one of the team's four Ivy losses that was decided by more than one goal. This string of razor-thin margins was highlighted by a 9-8 loss to Princeton, the closest league game that the Tigers have had throughout the course of their current 29-game Ivy winning streak. In short, it was enough to make a Red Sox fan sympathize. Penn fought hard, went shot-for-shot with some of the best programs in the country. But balls just didn't bounce its way. And Penn was denied a .500 Ivy League record for the eighth time in nine seasons. The '99 team was a complete package. With a defense anchored by four-year starting goalie Matt Schroeder and always reliable defenseman Ziggy Majumdar, the Quakers were able to send back most of what teams threw at them. The Red and Blue offense usually purred like a kitten as well. The shooting of first-team All-Ivy and honorable mention All-America selection Pete Janney coupled with the deft passing of Todd Minerley helped Penn outscore its opponents, 139-119, while going just 6-8 on the year. Schroeder's graduation and the departure of Majumdar and fellow workhorse Brett Bodner prompted questions about the Penn defense, but the same offensive nucleus returned this season to galvanize a similarly encouraging March. In Penn's first regular season contest on March 4, Janney's four tallies and Minerley's pair of scores paced the Quakers past Notre Dame, 10-7, catapulting the Quakers to a No. 12 national ranking. Quality wins against Bucknell and Lafayette followed, but those victories sandwiched a frustrating 11-10 loss to Yale over spring break. March 25 brought a 15-12 loss to Harvard that, much like the Yale game, got out of Penn's reach early. The Quakers roared back late, but the comeback fell short. April 1 brought a different problem. Penn led early on against Cornell but then collapsed down the stretch, losing 16-7. A tough win over Dartmouth helped things yet was outshined by losses to Princeton and Brown. Perhaps the epitome of Penn's troubles this spring came against Villanova on April 12. 'Nova prevailed 15-14 in two overtimes, but that was after Penn's Billy Reidy's apparent goal with five seconds left was called off after he landed just inside the crease. It just seems like the stars are never right for things to go the Quakers' way as the weather gets balmy.Comments powered by Disqus
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