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Junior faceoff specialist Kyle Gallagher has been a key force on the field for Penn men's lacrosse this season.

Credit: Son Nguyen

Junior faceoff specialist Kyle Gallagher knows the best way to score is when you give your team the ball.

His excellent play from the X this year is a major contributor to the Quakers' 5-3 start to the season. The team is currently 3-0 in Ivy League play and is currently riding a five-game winning streak after dropping its first three contests.

Through eight games thus far, Gallagher ranks No. 20 in the nation in faceoff winning percentage at .595. The effect that his success has had on the team is apparent.

“It affects the way we go into games and the way we play offense because we go in thinking we have a reasonable chance to get the ball back,” coach Mike Murphy said. “Whereas in years past when we haven’t had that feeling, so you change the way you play a little bit. You can take a few more chances and it allows players to do their jobs.”

A transfer from Hofstra, Gallagher managed to improve off a sophomore season in which he played in all 14 games for the Pride and ranked No. 23 in the nation with a face-off win percentage of .595.

“I worked really hard in the offseason and trained with some of the best guys in the country,” Gallagher said. “The three guys that I play with — Jamie Zusi, Richie Lenskold, and Anthony Giuliani — are some of the best teammates you could ask for.”

Credit: Gillian Diebold

Gallagher not only contributes to the team through his skill, but also through his locker room presence as well. His teammates and coach describe him as a sarcastic, upbeat player who loves to put in extra time after practice. His teammates emphasized his selflessness and devotion to the team.

“This past week, I gave him a haircut,” senior midfielder Tyler Dunn joked. “I told him I was working on my haircut skills, and he told me I could use him as my canvas. I think that’s pretty selfless of him. That translates to the field as well, just doing the dirty work to get us goals and really grinding through every possession.” 

This past weekend in the Quakers' matchup against No. 2 Yale, Gallagher faced his biggest challenge of the season in Bulldogs junior TD Ierlan. In his 2018 campaign with Albany, Ierlan set the Division I records for highest faceoff win percentage at .791 and most faceoff wins in a given year with 359.

Ierlan has been providing similar numbers with the Elis this season. He is currently best in the nation once again in faceoff win percentage with a mark of .745.

Gallagher stepped up to the challenge against Yale this past weekend and made an instant impact. He won 14 of 29 faceoffs against Ierlan, posting a win percentage of .482. Thanks to his efforts, the Red and Blue managed to stick with the Bulldogs and pull off the upset 13-12 in triple overtime.

“If he doesn’t do that and [senior goalie] Reed Junkin doesn’t do what he did in the cage, we clearly don’t win that game. We knew that going in,” Murphy said. “I felt like Kyle could beat him, but that kid was winning faceoffs at around 80 percent. So if we get one ball out of five, it’s going to be a long day. But when we’re getting five out of 10, then the game was a different story.”

Gallagher will look to grow off this performance for the rest of the season, with an eye on the Ivy League Tournament.

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