Great teams find ways to win games even when they aren’t playing well and that was the case Tuesday for Penn men’s lacrosse.
On a cold and wet night at Franklin Field, the No. 14 Quakers beat St. Joseph’s in a hard-fought contest, 6-5, to extend their all-time record against the Hawks to 10-0.
The Red and Blue (2-0) were coming off a big win over then-No. 14 Duke last Friday, but the defensive strategy of St. Joe’s (2-2) took them by surprise.
“They had a really good game plan for us and we weren’t really ready for it,” sophomore attacker Will Laco said. “They really just packed it in on defense and got real tight, so we had to do different things.”
The Quakers put 14 goals past Duke, but were held to just six by the Hawks on Tuesday.
St. Joe’s announced its presence early on, as sophomore attacker Matthew Franchak scored within the opening 90 seconds to put the Hawks ahead.
First period goals from junior Zack Losco and senior Ryan Parietti gave Penn its first lead of the night at 2-1, but St. Joe’s responded with three unanswered goals as the Quakers’ offense struggled to finish its chances.
“We did play pretty good offense, we just didn’t hit the shots that we wanted to hit,” coach Mike Murphy said.
Leading 4-2 with just over a minute left in the second quarter, it appeared that St. Joe’s was going to go into halftime with all the momentum. But Penn senior captain Tim Schwalje, who had been named Co-Ivy Player of the Week on Monday, stepped up.
The senior attacker was kept in check by the Hawks throughout the game, but with just 1:09 left in the half, Schwalje gave the Red and Blue exactly what they needed by scoring his only goal of the night.
With only a minute remaining in the half, the Quakers weren’t quite done yet. Sophomore attacker Chris Hupfeldt beat the Hawks’ defense with only five seconds left on the clock to even the score at 4-4.
After the break, both teams buckled down on defense, with both teams only scoring one goal apiece until the final four minutes. Junior goalie Brian Feeney made some big stops for Penn, finishing the game with eight saves.
“Brian did a great job, a little rough in the first quarter against Duke, but since then he has kind of settled in,” Murphy said. “He’s one of our best players and somebody we will lean on heavily moving forward.”
With the game tied at 5-5, Laco took the game into his own hands, driving up the field towards goal and powering his way past a defender before finding twine for the game-winning goal.
St. Joe’s was able to get a couple final attempts at the Penn goal, but Feeney and the Quakers defense held on to record the 6-5 victory.
“We had a feeling they were going to get a shot off at the last second, but it was a shot that we thought we could handle,” Feeney said.
The Quakers showed perseverance by pulling out the close win, but this game proved that there probably won’t be such a thing as an easy game, as every opponent they face will be gunning for them.
“It felt good to get that goal at the end,” Laco said. “We found a way to win. But we need to buckle down, play better and get ready for Denver.”
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