They meet again.
For the third time this year, Penn men’s lacrosse will face off against Yale, but this time it will be in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament. With a 12-game winning streak, and a perfect record against Ivy League teams, the Quakers will look to send the defending national champions home on Sunday.
This season, the No. 4 Quakers (12-3, 6-0 Ivy) have beaten the No. 5 Bulldogs (13-3, 5-1) twice, with Penn edging out one-goal wins both times. The latest victory came in the Ivy League Championship game where Penn won, 12-11.
“Even though we beat Yale twice already, we still have some things to clean up from both games we’ve played. We’re hoping to play our best lacrosse and a whole complete game on Sunday,” junior attacker Adam Goldner said.
The main thing that the Quakers will need to improve on is their turnover numbers. In their last game, Penn had 23 turnovers, almost double the amount that Army had.
“More than half of the turnovers were caused turnovers by [Army],” coach Mike Murphy said. “We have to improve our spacing a little bit, and if we do that and some stick work, we’ll be better off.”
As it was in their previous matchup, the battle at the X may be the deciding factor in the game. Penn junior face-off specialist Kyle Gallagher will once go against junior TD Ierlan, the best in the nation at the X. In the championship game, Gallagher outplayed Ierlan, winning 15-of-26 faceoffs.
“The faceoff X is an important part of this game, but the whole game is not on Kyle,” senior Simon Mathias said. “Our entire team from goalie, [defense], midfield to attack has to play a good game to beat a great team. So if Kyle can have a good day, that’ll be fantastic, but everyone else will be ready to step up and have a good one as well.”
With this being program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in five years, the team’s seniors are finally getting to play in the tournament and are determined to move on. They are cherishing the extra games, knowing that each one could possibly be the last in their college career.
“You work for nine months to play in May, so playing with a great group of guys, some of my best friends, has been very enjoyable,” Mathias said. “I’m very proud of the way we’ve been playing and the way its ended up and hopefully we can keep playing for a week or two longer.”
The team’s seniors have been a large part of Penn’s success in the postseason so far. In their game against Army, Mathias had four goals and senior midfielder Alex Roesner had three goals. Defensively, senior goalkeeper Reed Junkin tallied eight goals bringing him to 41 saves in the three postseason games.
Since it is an Ivy League matchup and between two of the best teams in the nation, this game will be one of the most-watched quarterfinal games. These teams are very familiar with one another and know each other’s style of play, so Sunday’s game will be the most intense matchup between the two.
“It’s really just another game,” Murphy said. “They’re going to do what they do, and we’re going to do what we do, and we’re going to find out who the better team is on Sunday.”
The winner of this game will face off against the winner of No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 8 Loyola (Md.) next weekend. If the Quakers advance, they’ll be playing in their own backyard at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
The two previous matchups between Penn and Yale have been incredibly close, and have, fortunately, gone Penn’s way. The intensity of Sunday’s game will be no different, as these two teams battle it out for the last time, with a trip to the semifinals on the line.
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