What does a 1-5 Ivy League record plus a 5-9 overall record equal? The answer is a season that the Penn men's lacrosse team would like to forget. In truth, the Quakers began last season on a good note. They defeated Notre Dame, 10-7 and then topped Bucknell, 5-4, in overtime. But things began to slide for the Quakers when they suffered a crushing 13-6 loss against North Carolina before dropping close battles to Yale and Harvard. It was all downhill from there, as the Quakers could only muster one Ivy League victory, a 7-4 win at Dartmouth. Penn begins this season with a not-too-difficult schedule, as the Quakers both Notre Dame and Bucknell, teams they defeated last year. But starting on March 17, when the Quakers play Ivy rival Yale, Penn's challenge will be to turn last season's close losses into this season's victories. Unfortunately for Penn, it does not have any star players to add to this year's lineup. The lack of fresh talent is especially disappointing after the departure of one of last year's leading scorers, Peter Janney. The Quakers will have to find some way to fill the void left by Janney's exit, and it doesn't look like any of the freshman players are in a position to fill Janney's shoes. Midfielder Dave Delaney might be the most promising of Penn's first-year players. "He's probably the only freshman who is seeing time I believe. He gets in there," Penn junior midfielder Mike Iannacone said. "But there are absolutely no superstar freshman." Although the Penn lineup has not been enhanced significantly, the coaching staff has received some important additions in the way of defensive coach Mike Murphy and goalie coach Brian Dougherty. Iannacone sites the presence of the new coaches as a reason for optimism this season. "I expect [this season] to be a complete 180 from last year," Iannacone said. "The way the team reacts in practice, and the intensity in practice and the intensity on the field is something we haven't seen in Penn lacrosse for a long time. "One of the big reasons is Coach Murphy and [Head] Coach [Marc] Van [Arsdale], they kind of feed off each other. Coach Murphy is a little bit more aggressive, you know he's the defensive half. And Coach Van is a little bit more on the quiet side and he kind of takes care of the offensive half." Some Quakers feel that despite few changes to the lineup, there is a sense of optimism amongst the team this season that didn't exist in the past. "The team's been doing really well, we've been playing real hard and I think the whole team is really optimistic about this year," junior defenseman Read Mortimer said. "I can't really pinpoint it but I feel like the team attitude is better this year than it was last year. I feel like there is a different sort of feeling in the locker room and on the field when we're together." The Quakers are off to a good start this season, having recorded a 3-1 record in preseason play. Penn's success in the preseason has given them optimism going into Notre Dame and has demonstrated some of the effectiveness of the new coaching additions. "We're actually very confident going into Notre Dame -- we played well the last three scrimmages," Iannacone said. "Mike Murphy has done some phenomenal things with our defense, which was one of our problems last year. "We are definitely a heck of a lot stronger this year on defense, and its been showing, as evidenced by some of the scores in the scrimmages. The offense has come together a lot this year because we've been having a lot of the younger guys stepping up." Whether new coaching and improved optimism will be enough to carry the Quakers to a higher place in the Ivy League has yet to be seen. Notre Dame will be the first real glimpse of whether these measures will be enough to improve Penn's standings this season. "Our coach has a slogan for the year. His line is win the next one. So right now we're just focusing on Notre Dame," Mortimer said. "And then we've just been concentrating on practicing our defenses and our offenses and running through their stuff, making adjustments to their specific strengths, but pretty much just practicing what our game is." Penn's success this season will depend on its ability to not only practice its game, but to make sure that it is significantly different from last year's.Comments powered by Disqus
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