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Penn men's lacrosse's offense excelled behind five points from senior attackman Kevin McGeary, but the defense couldn't stop Saint Joe's in a 12-11 loss.

Credit: Pranay Vemulamada

The team that wins the faceoff battle and commits less penalties usually wins the game.

However, despite winning 68 percent of the faceoffs and committing three less penalties than its opponent, Penn men's lacrosse lost to Saint Joseph's in a gut wrenching 12-11 loss that all but eliminated its chances at an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

Like in the weekend's win against Harvard, the No. 20 Quakers (6-7, 2-3 Ivy) got off to a slow start, surrendering the first four goals of the game. Still, Penn was able to claw its way back into the game thanks to senior attackman Kevin McGeary’s two unassisted goals with under a minute left in the first quarter to bring the score to 4-2. 

A two goal lead for St. Joe's (8-3, 4-0 NEC) was a common theme throughout the game, with the Hawks holding such a lead on eight separate occasions. The first time Penn came within one goal was with only 3:53 left in the game, following a goal from junior attackman Simon Mathias, which brought the score to its final resting point of 12-11.

Even with the offense's slow start, coach Mike Murphy was most upset with his defense.

“Our defense just didn’t play well and [junior goalie] Reed Junkin didn’t play well,” Murphy said. “It was hard to get enough stops to gain momentum.”

In the game, Junkin was only able to stop 7 of 19 shots on goal, well below his season save percentage of 51 percent. Given this game and a string of shaky performances in the past, the starting goalie spot against Dartmouth has been up for grabs over the past couple of weeks. Vying for the spot are Junkin, sophomore Alex Demarco, and freshman Preston Heard. 

“We had an open competition going into the Harvard game and Reed was very good that week,” Murphy said. “In the cage, if you make a change, it’s pretty drastic, [but] I thought about it tonight, honestly.”

What held Murphy back from making the change was the fact that it's hard for any goalie to play well coming off the bench in the middle of the game. Neither backup goalie has played a lot this season, and inserting them into a cold-weather game would not have been advantageous to them or to the team, according to Murphy.

Still, despite a tough game defensively, Penn had a chance to knot the score with under 30 seconds to play. With the Quakers down 12-11, St. Joes garnered two penalties on a clear and the ensuing offensive possession to give Penn a six-to-four man-up advantage.

However, like on the majority of their extra-man opportunities, the Quakers failed to score, turning the ball over near the crease. Overall, Penn went 2 for 6 on man-up. 

“Man-up was average, kind of like our overall effort and preparation for this week, so that’s what we get,” Murphy reflected on his team’s performance. 

Even with the disappointing loss, Penn can draw a lot of positives from this game. After struggling with faceoffs most of the season, the Quakers looked to have found their guy in junior Richie Lenskold, who went 17 of 25 from the X this game. 

Since taking over for senior Chris Santangelo against Harvard, Lenskold has won 70 percent of his faceoffs. 

Still, Penn can keep its postseason hopes alive by making the Ivy League tournament. In order to do that, they need to beat a traditionally weak Dartmouth team this weekend, and have top-ranked Yale take down Harvard as is expected.

Dartmouth (2-9, 0-4 Ivy) has not won a conference game in three years and has not defeated Penn since 2012, when the current seniors were sophomores in high school. 

However, after Penn’s most recent outing, Murphy is not taking any opponent lightly.

“To beat Dartmouth, we have to play better than we did tonight.”

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