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Mens Lacrosse vs UMBC Credit: Alexis Ziebelman , Alexis Ziebelman

The first one is always the hardest.

Despite snow, cold and some patchy play, Penn men’s lacrosse raced out to an early lead and overcame UMBC, 10-8, in its first game of the season on Saturday.

The Retrievers (0-2), who opened their season with a loss against No. 6 Johns Hopkins last weekend, managed to pose a threat to No. 13 Penn (1-0) on a snowy day at Franklin Field.

“We found a way to get a win when we weren’t playing well,” Penn coach Mike Murphy said.

Early in the first quarter, an initial goal by UMBC was followed by three goals in quick succession from Penn freshman Kevin McGeary and sophomores Chris Hilburn and Austin Kreinz. A second goal from Kreinz combined with two from UMBC’s Nate Lewnes sustained the first quarter action as the Red and Blue led at the end of the period, 4-3.

In a relatively dormant second quarter, Penn freshman Reilly Hupfeldt — brother of Quakers’ senior attack Chris Hupfeldt — notched his first career goal off an assist by junior Nick Doktor. The Retrievers responded with a goal of their own to cut Penn’s lead in half heading into halftime.

After the break, Murphy swapped goalkeepers, inserting senior John Lopes for junior Jimmy Sestilio.

“Both have been competing for the goalkeeping job,” Murphy explained. “We figured we should give both a shot.”

In the third quarter, McGeary scored the second and third goals of his Penn debut to give the Red and Blue a 7-4 lead before UMBC responded with one of its own.

“I play with two seniors with a lot of experience,” McGeary said. “It makes me feel more comfortable out there.”

Soon after the Retrievers’ score cut Penn’s margin to two, Doktor found an opening past UMBC keeper Connor Gordon to give the Quakers more breathing room at 8-5. The junior attack recorded his second goal of the match a quarter later off an assist from sophomore Kevin Brown to push Penn’s lead to four.

The Retrievers, however, did not let the deficit get to their heads, as Lewnes picked up another goal with just over seven minutes left. Seconds later, Red and Blue senior Joe McCallion responded for the Quakers’ final goal of the match.

Trailing by four, the Retrievers managed to edge their way back into the game. Just before the five-minute mark, Lewnes scored his fourth goal of the game, followed by a goal from Drew Borsody with less than three minutes left to cut the deficit to two.

“The shots [UMBC] hit were really good,” Murphy admitted. “We were worried.”

In the end, however, the Quakers’ defense managed to hold off a comeback, yielding a final scoreline of 10-8.

A key factor in the win was junior Rob Savage’s proclivity for face-offs. The Garden City, N.Y., native came out on top in 18 out of 22 attempts.

Murphy, while satisfied with a win, was less content with some of the inconsistencies he noted in both the offensive and defensive units on Saturday. However, he remains hopeful that things will sort themselves out as the season progresses.

“I would like to think that our improvement curve is still pretty steep,” Murphy said.

Another major challenge for the Quakers consists of filling the shoes of some of the key players who graduated last year. Still, Murphy recognizes the importance of early nonconference matchups to prepare those filling the void for the remainder of the season.

“Hopefully we can clean some things up and play better against St. Joe’s,” he said.

Penn will next take the field on Tuesday when it travels to Saint Joseph’s to take on the Hawks.

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