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mlax-sam-handley-2

Freshman midfielder Sam Handley has had an impressive first season and leads Penn men's lacrosse in points with 44.

Credit: Son Nguyen

What’s better than having a share of an Ivy League title? Having it all to yourself. 

This Saturday will mark the last home game of the season for No. 5 Penn men’s lacrosse. Besides celebrating Senior Day, Penn can also look forward to claiming its first outright Ivy League title in 31 years when it takes on Dartmouth. 

Penn (7-3, 5-0 Ivy) is currently riding a seven-game win streak, while the Big Green (2-9, 0-4) have lost six straight games. Dartmouth has been outscored by 44 goals this season and has the fifth-most turnovers in the Ivy League this season. 

Despite the disparity between both teams, Penn coach Mike Murphy is not concerned about the team buckling in a potential trap game.

“I think it only leads to the excitement [because] we were not picked to win the Ivy League,” Murphy said. “We really just see this as an opportunity to accomplish our first goal of winning the Ivy League regular season title.”

One key to replicating the success the Red and Blue have had this season will be starting off strong on offense by moving the ball around. Penn currently ranks second nationwide in goals per game — behind only No. 1 Penn State. In wins this season, the Quakers have averaged 11 more shots than they have in losses, while they average almost five more assists per game in wins than they average in losses.

Last weekend against Harvard, Penn jumped out to a 7-1 lead after the first quarter and wound up scoring a season-high 26 goals on a season-high 44.8 percent scoring percentage. The Quakers' offensive showing was impressive, but Murphy wants to see his team step up on the other end of the field. 

“I think against Harvard, we played very good defense in the first half [but] let up a little bit defensively in the second half,” he said. “So we need to keep up our defensive intensity and play 60 minutes of good defense this time instead of just 30.”

The Quakers will certainly rely on junior attackman Adam Goldner on the offensive end, who has put up a conference-best 3.9 goals per game. Equally important for the Red and Blue is freshman midfielder Sam Handley, who has burst onto the scene averaging 2.3 goals per game and 2.0 assists per game. Goldner and Handley both scored a game-high six goals last weekend against Harvard. 

For the Big Green, junior Ben Martin leads the way with 38 points, ranking 10th in goals per game in the Ivy League. For the most part, though, the Big Green have struggled on offense, putting up just eight goals per game — the lowest in the Ivy League.

Dartmouth has started two goalies this season, both of whom have been effective. Junior George Christopher and freshman Daniel Hincks have both posted a save percentage above 50 percent. Penn's offense has been successful all year, but they shouldn't underestimate the Big Green's staunch goalkeeping duo. 

The Red and Blue are nonetheless in great shape to wrap up their first outright Ivy League title since 1988 and compete in the Ivy League Tournament in early May.

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