For Penn men's lacrosse, it isn’t lonely at the top.
The regular season Ivy champion Quakers (9-3, 6-0 Ivy) will look to cement their status as the best team in the conference at the Ivy League Tournament this weekend.
Three of the top-10 teams in the country are competing in the Tournament, and despite its triple-overtime win against Yale (11-2, 5-1) a month ago, No. 3 Penn sits right behind the No. 2 Bulldogs in the national polls. Cornell (10-4, 4-2), also having a successful season, is ranked No. 9.
However, the Ivy teams won’t be thinking about the national rankings as they face off at a neutral site at Columbia.
The No. 1-seeded Quakers will compete against No. 4 Brown at 6 p.m. on Friday, with Yale and Cornell to follow. The championship game between the two winners will occur at 12 p.m. on Friday. Here's a breakdown of how Penn matches up with the other three teams.
Penn vs. Brown
When Penn and Brown (7-8, 3-3 Ivy) played earlier in the season, the Quakers took down the Bears, 16-9. Junior midfielder George Grell led Brown in points with two goals and two assists. In comparison, Penn junior attackman Adam Goldner had seven points on the day, followed by freshman midfielder Sam Handley, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, with six points. Penn’s offense will have to keep shooting around Brown junior goalie Phil Goss, who has a 50% save percentage on the season.
In the last Penn-Brown matchup, junior faceoff specialist Kyle Gallagher won 16 of his 26 faceoffs before being relieved by senior Richie Lenskold.
“Obviously, the faceoff has been a pretty big key for us, gaining Gallagher at the X, but beyond that, just kind of executing the game plan that we’ve put together this week," senior attackman and captain Simon Mathias said.
“We know what we have to do to beat a very good Brown team, and then hopefully if we execute what we’ve planned to do, then we’ll be playing for an Ivy League Championship,” Mathias continued.
Penn vs. Yale
Previously this season, the Quakers beat the defending national champions in a nail-biting contest. In triple overtime, Handley fired home the winning goal.
Yale is led by junior TD Ierlan, whose 79% faceoff win percentage leads the country. Gallagher, at 64%, is ranked No. 11 nationally. Both faceoff specialists are in their first season in the Ivy League, with Ierlan spending two years at Albany and Gallagher playing at Hofstra for two seasons.
Junior attackermen Jackson Morrill and Matt Gaudet, the only two players on the team with over 30 goals, will be Yale’s most potent scoring threats.
Penn vs. Cornell
If Penn gets through to the championship game and Cornell overtakes Yale, the Quakers will take on the Big Red for the second time this year. The score of their regular season game fell in favor of Penn by a single goal at 16-15.
Cornell’s statistics on the year are more spread out than Penn's or Yale's. Junior attackman Jeff Teat, senior attackman Clarke Petterson, and sophomore attackman John Piatello have over 40 goals and 60 points on the season. However, the Big Red's starting faceoff specialist has an under 50% win percentage. If a Penn-Cornell championship is in the cards, the faceoff could be a key factor for a Penn win.
Penn hopes to continue its nine-game win streak this weekend and into the NCAA Tournament as well.
“We’ve put together a nice string of wins, and so each week we’ve just been trying to improve on most facets of our game, whether that be defense, offense, faceoffs, and the net,” Mathias said.
Cornell won last year’s Tournament against Yale after the Bulldogs thrashed the Quakers in the first round. The previous three editions were taken by Yale, with Penn last winning it all in 2014.
For Mathias, winning the Ivy Tournament means more than just a trophy.
“[Winning] would give an opportunity for this team to stay pretty close five, 10, 15 years down the line, and I think that’s why you do all this stuff.”