Talk about a tale of two halves.
After exploding for 10 goals in the first half, Penn men’s lacrosse faltered in the second, losing to rival Cornell 20-13.
For the No. 16 Quakers (5-4, 1-1 Ivy), the loss comes on the heels of the team’s first winning streak of the season, as they defeated Princeton last weekend and Bucknell on Tuesday.
In the early going, it appeared as if the Quakers were picking up where they had left off against the Tigers and the Bison, as juniors Tyler Dunn and Simon Mathias led an offensive barrage in the game’s first 30 minutes.
However, even with the offense clicking in such a manner, the Red and Blue were never able to distance themselves from Cornell (4-3, 1-1), as star attackman Jeff Teat and the Big Red offense nearly matched the Quakers goal for goal, scoring eight of their own in the first half.
Although it seemed as if the fans were going to be treated to a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair in the second half, the Cornell defense had other ideas, holding the Quakers to just a single tally in the third quarter and two in the fourth quarter.
Keying the Big Red’s second-half dominance was their work on the ground, as they scooped up 17 ground balls to the Quakers’ nine. Winning 10 of 16 second-half faceoffs contributed greatly to that ground ball disparity and further allowed Cornell to possess the ball for the majority of the game.
Given the plethora of scorers on the Big Red attack, those extra possessions proved costly for the Quakers. Teat, only a sophomore but already ubiquitously regarded as one of the best attackmen in the sport, facilitated an offense predicated on passing and cutting.
He scored six goals and recorded two assists, displaying crafty ball-handling and slick feeding throughout the contest. Rarely was Teat able to fully evade Penn sophomore defenseman Mark Evanchick, but his handle and craftiness allowed him to find creases and cutters against Penn’s defense.
Penn’s defense had established itself as one of the top units in the country heading into this matchup, holding the opponent’s offense under 10 goals four games in a row, but against Cornell, weaknesses may have been exposed. While the Red and Blue's defenders were rarely beaten by Cornell's dodgers, they were largely unable to contend with the Big Red's ball movement, and delivered a performance eerily reminiscent of last season’s loss to Princeton.
For the Quakers to right the ship and continue on their trajectory towards Ivy League contention, they’ll need to address those issues and focus on their slide packages. With a matchup against Ben Reeves and defending Ivy League champion No. 6 Yale (6-1, 2-0) looming next weekend, the Red and Blue will not have much time to adjust.
However, even with this loss, the Quakers remain in an overall strong position. With a win over Princeton under its belt and with Princeton, Brown, and Dartmouth still winless in Ivy League play, Penn sits in the upper echelon of the conference. Throw in wins over Duke and Michigan, and the Quakers could find themselves in the at-large discussion as well come tournament time.
Of course, the NCAA tournament is a long ways off, and Penn must focus on the task immediately ahead.
If the offense extends its first-half performance for a full 60 minutes and if the defense returns to early-season form, perhaps this is the year the Quakers finally dethrone the Bulldogs in New Haven.