There was no shortage of offense for the Quakers on Saturday.
No. 6 Penn men’s lacrosse overpowered Brown on the offensive end to win its sixth consecutive game by a score of 16-9.
It was a very scrappy first half with ground balls and turnovers aplenty. Brown (4-6, 2-1 Ivy) opened the scoring, but Penn sophomore midfielder Mitch Bartolo swiftly answered with a long-range bounce shot. Crisp passing from the Quakers (6-3, 4-0) would also allow junior attacker Adam Goldner to notch a quick score. With the shot clock running down, the Quakers were able to send the ball into the net once more, but the referees deemed it a fraction too late.
Thanks in part to Penn’s energy and physicality, Brown looked lost on offense and turned the ball over on multiple occasions, including one straight after winning the faceoff. Penn took advantage of the Bears’ slump and stretched its lead to 5-2 with 9:32 remaining in the second quarter. But the Red and Blue would later pay the price for their intense style of play, with an illegal body check being called against senior midfielder Alex Roesner while attempting an interception.
During its extra-man opportunity, the Bears scored twice to cut Penn’s lead to one. That included a long heave up the field by Brown goalkeeper Phil Goss — off of a Penn turnover — that caught the Quakers at the back and resulted in a simple finish. However, the Red and Blue calmed their nerves and scored three times in the final six minutes of the period, including another quick-fire two goals by Goldner in the span of 44 seconds. That gave Penn a comfortable 8-4 lead heading into the break.
The Red and Blue kept their strong offensive game going in the third period, scoring just 33 seconds after the restart. But with the crowd behind their backs, the Bears refused to give in without a fight. Despite four penalties being called against Brown and Penn outmatching them 17-9 in shot attempts, the Quakers were unable to extend their lead significantly. That was largely due to the heroics of Goss, who came up with the save of the game by denying Penn’s freshman attacker Dylan Gergar from point-blank range.
“I think we didn’t really focus on our shooting the way we should have,” coach Mike Murphy said. “A couple of guys had shots, but they didn’t take enough pride in finishing those [shots] the right way. Instead, Brown made some plays, and they’re a very tough-minded team.”
The Quakers’ 12-7 advantage would last almost half of the fourth period, as both teams struggled to get quality looks at goal. Chasing the game, Brown would pile intense pressure on the Penn defense and on senior goalie Reed Junkin, who notched 15 saves in the game. With 7:27 to go, the Bears finally broke the scoring drought for both teams. They would follow that up with another goal 50 seconds later, to reduce Penn’s lead to 12-9.
“We just talked about focusing on the little things,” Murphy said. “Coming [out] with that next faceoff, I think that was a defining moment in the game. But credit to Brown for making the run, and credit to us for responding in the fourth and finishing the game the right way.”
Having endured a 10-minute scoring drought, Penn needed a score to seal the deal. And, as they have all season, the Red and Blue turned to their star attacker Goldner, who grabbed his sixth goal of the game to silence the crowd and shift the momentum back in Penn’s favor. Gergar would then atone for his earlier miss to restore Penn’s five-goal cushion with 2:51 to go. A late goal by senior attacker Simon Mathias and a second from Gergar would seal the win for the Red and Blue.
“[Goldner]’s more of an off-ball guy for us this year,” Murphy said. “The beauty is that we have so many guys on the perimeter who can beat their guy. When a guy beats his man and the ball starts flying around, generally people are looking for Adam Goldner because he finishes the ball so well.”
As much as the Quakers' offense has stood out, their defense is also starting to pick up, as this was the second time this season Penn has limited its opponent to single-digit scoring.
“Our three starting close defensemen were out all fall for different reasons: [junior] Mark Evanchick was playing football, and then [junior] Kyle Thornton and [senior] Noah Lejman were out with injuries," Murphy said. "Those guys are starting to gel now, and we’ve got a couple of freshmen back there that are figuring things out."
Next up for the Quakers is a visit to Harvard next Saturday. A win would see Penn further extend its lead at the top of the Ivy League standings as the regular season nears a close.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.