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Senior attacker Simon Mathias scored two goals against No. 5 Duke, but Penn men's lacrosse could not muster an upset against the Blue Devils on Saturday.

Credit: Nicole Fridling

With one second to go on the clock, Duke scored a wrap-around goal at what appeared to be an impossible angle to cap off the first quarter. That’s how the day went for the Quakers, where seemingly nothing would bounce their way. 

On Saturday, Penn men’s lacrosse competed in their first road contest of the year, traveling to Durham, N.C. to face off against No. 5 Duke. From the start of the contest, the Quakers struggled to keep up with the Blue Devils, ultimately losing 17-7. 

The first road game of the season for the Red and Blue (0-2) got off to a difficult start even before the first face-off. The game, originally to be played at Koskinen Stadium, was moved due to flooding. The contest was instead played on Duke’s practice field, where rain persisted throughout the contest. Every time the ball struck the ground, water could be seen splashing off of the field.

“We practice all the time on turf so we were ready for [the field change],” coach Mike Murphy said. “I had a feeling that might happen because they had about two weeks straight of rain.” 

The Quakers fell behind early to Duke (4-1), surrendering two goals before possessing the ball once. Within the first 2:34 of the game, the Red and Blue fell behind 3-0. The high scoring first quarter ended with an 8-2 Duke lead.

“[After going down early] we called timeout and said 'Let's restart this thing. Let's go about this like its 0-0 right now. Let's settle in and talk about all the stuff we had been doing in practice that week,'” Murphy said. “We didn’t really do that. To play as poorly as we did, turning the ball over on offense, not playing good defense, and not winning face-offs — that’s a recipe for a one-sided loss.”

As many teams do, Penn found it difficult to stop sophomore attacker Joe Robertson. Robertson — who started 19 of 20 games as a freshman for the 2018 Duke team that finished second in the nation — has scored a goal in each of his last 16 contests. And on Saturday, he struck once again, putting four goals past the Red and Blue.

“[Robertson] is very very good — highly skilled. He’s made improvements from last year and he’s only going to keep getting better this year and beyond,” Murphy said. 

Last season when the Quakers defeated then-No. 1 Duke, the team utilized a strong second half to rally back and top the Blue Devils. This time around, with the Quakers down 12-3 at half, history did not repeat itself. 

Despite surrendering only five goals in the second half compared to a dozen in the first, the Quakers ultimately could not find a way to pull out a victory in the contest. In the end, Duke doubled Penn in shots on target at 28-14. 

“[After halftime] we went to a zone, tightened up a few things here and there. But I think at that point, the damage was done,” Murphy said. 

Despite the loss, many Quakers had exceptional performances. Both senior Simon Mathias and junior Adam Goldner scored a pair of goals. Goldner continued his hot start from the team's narrow season-opening loss against Maryland and now leads the team with five goals through two contests. 

“[Goldner] has had a fantastic year from preseason until now. He’s just very consistent and dependable. He and [Mathias] give us a very good presence on attack,” Murphy said. 

Despite their 0-2 start to the season, Penn has played well against tough competition, losing to the No. 3 and No. 5 teams in the country so far. The team's high-caliber schedule isn't stopping soon, but the Quakers will look to build off this loss and prepare for next Saturday’s contest at No. 2 Penn State.