All of the elements were there. Great goaltending. An explosive start. Smart shot selection.
Everything in the early going truly pointed to a Penn men’s lacrosse victory, but Brown’s resiliency proved too much to handle, resulting in an 11-8 loss for the Red and Blue.
The Quakers (4-5, 1-3 Ivy) are now on the brink of Ivy League Tournament elimination, as they once again failed to play a complete 60 minutes of lacrosse.
In last week’s loss against Yale, after playing the first three quarters poorly, the Quakers ended on a tear, scoring six of the game’s final seven goals before running out of time to complete the comeback. Against Brown (5-4, 2-1) the Red and Blue started much the same way they finished last weekend, opening up a 5-1 lead halfway through the second quarter.
Sparking that opening run for the Quakers was maybe the least likely of sources, as junior defenseman Jack Ullrich scooped up a loose ball in front of the net and finished for his first goal of the season. Also contributing were more consistent goal scorers junior attackman/midfielder Kevin McGeary, sophomore attackman Simon Mathias, and junior All-American long stick midfielder Connor Keating.
Mathias, in particular, shined during the goal-scoring run, scoring two goals in highlight reel fashion. The first started with a one-handed interception at the boxline and culminated in a bevy of stick fakes and a low finish on the sprawling Brown goalie, freshman Phil Goss. The second was a lefty dive shot from goal line extended where his airborne nature allowed him to increase his angle in spectacular fashion.
However, immediately after that goal, the once wide open flood gates would be closed emphatically by Goss, as the freshman keeper played the game of his life, recording 19 saves on the day. Saving at a 70 percent clip, Goss was an absolute wall in the net, one that seemed to grow more impenetrable as the game wore on.
Speaking of strong goalie play, the Quakers have at least one thing about which to be enthused, with goalie Reed Junkin recording 17 saves of his own. The sophomore had been struggling mightily as of late, letting his save percentage dip below 50 percent, but against Brown, he rebounded in an enormous way, gobbling up all outside shots, forcing the Bears to think twice about each shot they took. Although he fielded a loss, Junkin should be proud about conceding only 11 goals to a team that previously averaged 16.33 goals per game at home.
Unfortunately, no matter how well Junkin played, his team had very little chance of winning, as Penn was dismantled at the faceoff “X,” winning only seven of 23 draws. College lacrosse is both a game of runs and a game of possessions. In order to string together goals, a team has to be able to win faceoffs, something Penn has been largely unable to accomplish this entire season. Changing the faceoff strategy appears to be a must for the Penn coaching staff, but after utilizing four faceoff men in this game alone, one is forced to wonder if all resources have already been exhausted in that regard.
Suffice it to say, something has to change for the Quakers to have any hope of reaching the Ivy League Tournament. A season that began so promisingly with wins over Virginia and Navy has become increasingly dire, as Penn must now beat Harvard and Dartmouth to have any chance of securing a bid, and, depending on how the rest of the Ivy League regular season pans out, even those two wins might not be enough.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.