The season starts over on Saturday.
After a difficult first five games for Penn men’s lacrosse, which featured matchups against three top-five programs in Maryland, Duke and Penn State, the Quakers are ready to start Ivy League play against Princeton.
“We had a really tough schedule going into Ivy League play, and we’ve learned a lot about ourselves,” junior attackman Adam Goldner said. “As a team, we’ve taken a lot of steps to get ready for League play. Going into Princeton we’re definitely battle tested.”
Penn (2-3) has used these games to grow as a team. Now ranked No. 20 in the nation, the Quakers' defense allowed 17 goals over two games this past weekend, after allowing 15 per game in its first three contests.
“[Our difficult schedule] helps tremendously," coach Mike Murphy said. "Those three [top-five] teams do a lot of different things well. They’re all different in style of play and things they exposed in our defense. We’ve corrected a lot of things on defense that we wouldn’t have corrected if we didn’t play that quality of schedule.”
On Saturday, the Red and Blue will look to continue their improved defensive efforts to try and contain an explosive Princeton offense.
The Tigers (2-3) are coming off of a road loss against Rutgers. The Princeton attack is led by junior Michael Sowers, who currently has 12 goals on the season. Sowers has led the Tigers' offense to an average of 14.6 goals per game so far this year, including a 23-goal showing in their opener against Monmouth and a 19-goal performance against Navy. As a team, Princeton is currently fifth in the nation in goals scored per game.
“Our defense is going to have their hands full with their offense and Mike Sowers,” Murphy said. “Our success will start with us being able to defend them well and defend Mike Sowers in particular.”
Penn will look to Goldner to keep up with the Tigers' explosive offense. Currently tied for 20th in the nation in goals per game with three scores per contest, Goldner has been the heart of the Quakers' offense so far this season.
“I think that being unselfish and looking for the best shot, not the first shot, [has helped me improve the most],” Goldner said. “Playing fast and with a lot of pace has kind of been our M.O.”
From the beginning of the season until now, the Quakers have been improving, always with an eye on Ivy League play.
“We’re improving and getting better in different areas, especially on defense. We’re still a work in progress, but we’re headed in the right direction,” Murphy said.
In their last two contests, the Red and Blue defeated Villanova and Saint Joseph's. Prior to those victories, Penn had lost its past three meetings against Villanova.
The Quakers will look to continue their two-game win streak this Saturday, starting their journey toward a potential Ivy League title.
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