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By all reasonable standards, a 13-game schedule that includes nine teams listed among the top 20 in the nation is simply crazy. Just don’t tell that to coach Mike Murphy and the Penn men’s lacrosse team.

In fact, the Quakers’ slate is so rough that it was recently ranked the toughest in the NCAA by Inside Lacrosse magazine, and their opener Friday at No. 10 Duke is no exception.

Penn’s 7-3 win over the Blue Devils last year in the season opener helped it solidify its first spot in the NCAA tournament since 2006.

Once again, stakes are equally high. In this go-around, the No. 17 Quakers will have their work cut out for them if they hope to reverse Murphy’s law.

The Daily Pennsylvanian caught up with the team before its eight-hour bus ride to get the scoop on what the Red and Blue need to do in order to start the season with an all-important win.

Shake off the cobwebs.

As a result of regulations that restrict starting dates for Ivy League spring sports, Penn has a major disadvantage when it comes to time spent playing together as a team. The Blue Devils (1-1) kicked off their season nearly two weeks ago — just as the Quakers were starting practice — with a 16-8 win over Rutgers, but enter the game fresh off a 7-3 loss to Notre Dame. So it’s critical that Penn brings itself up to speed right off the bat.

“They have the advantage of being a little bit more seasoned at this point, having practiced longer and played two more games, but they also don’t really know as much about us as we know about them so there is a tradeoff there,” Murphy said.

“I think the big thing is for us to be able to execute our game plan at full speed and for them to make adjustments. They’ve lost a game now, which in some ways is healthy — you learn from your mistakes and correct them. So they’ll be a better team on Friday than they were this past Saturday [against Notre Dame].”

Contain Duke’s high-powered offense.

Last year, Penn held Duke to three goals — its lowest output of the season. According to senior midfield Dan Savage and goalkeeper Brian Feeney, the Quakers defense is playing better than it did last year — despite the graduation of top defenseman Brett Hughes — so repeating the task is a real possibility.

“The key to holding Duke to less than three goals is to keep their midfielders in check,” Murphy noted. “They’ve got some big strong midfielders that get to the goal pretty well so we’ve got to support our long-pole defenders as a team. They’ve got a pretty good attackman who can get to the goal as well, Jordie Rolfe, who is from around here as well, so as a team if we can try to contain their athleticism and play good team defense like we did last year, I think we can prevent them from getting too out of control on the offensive end.”

Play as a team.

Several Quakers are already earning preseason accolades. Savage is on the watch-list for the Tewaarton trophy — awarded annually to the top player in the nation — while long-stick middie Will Koshansky and sophomore defenseman Maxx Meyer were named preseason All-Americans. Yet according to the Quakers, only a team effort will help them prevail over the Blue Devils.

“We don’t depend on people making big plays,” Murphy said. “We are more built for dependability and consistency at the offensive end and the defensive end so we don’t need anybody to score four goals or we don’t need Brian to have 20 saves in the goal. If everyone does their job, we will win the game.

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