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Junior attacker Sean Lulley (center) led Penn men's lacrosse with four goals against No. 4 Maryland on Saturday.

Credit: Son Nguyen

The Quakers were on fire for two and a half quarters. But then Maryland woke up.

In its season-opening contest, No. 6 Penn men's lacrosse traveled to College Park, Md. and fell 17-15 in devastating fashion after letting a six-goal lead slip away over the final 19 minutes of play.

Four goals from junior attacker Sean Lulley and a hat trick each from sophomore midfielder Sam Handley and sophomore attacker Dylan Gergar paced the Red and Blue on offense, but the team as a whole was held scoreless when it needed to come alive.

"We just talked about falling back on the things that had gotten us there and trying to do our jobs," coach Mike Murphy said. "We didn't do that quite as well as we would have liked, but as frustrating as it is to give up that lead, I feel like Maryland really made the plays down the stretch."

Although the final result was a disappointment for the defending Ivy League champions, there are some positives that can be drawn from the outcome.

Eager to catch the Terrapins off guard, Penn came out firing from the opening faceoff, taking only 42 seconds to kick off the scoring courtesy of Handley.

Lulley notched three of his goals in the first quarter — including one in the closing seconds — as the Red and Blue swarmed Maryland goalie Chris Brandau with 16 shots in the first 15 minutes alone. The offensive tactic paid off, as the Quakers finished the quarter leading 8-5.

The defense took firmer control of the game for both sides as the half progressed, with each side only managing four goals in the second quarter. Everything was going right for Penn as it cruised into the break riding a 12-9 lead.

"The biggest thing was the offense, the way we we kept the ball moving and we shot particularly well through the first two and a half quarters," Murphy said.

The Red and Blue opened the third quarter on a 3-0 run to stretch the lead to six goals, but that was ultimately where the visitors' offense would shut down. Maryland added two goals in the third to cut it to 15-11, but the home side wasn't done there.

Despite being outshot 13-10 in the final 15 minutes, the Terrapins scored six unanswered goals — including three from Daniel Maltz — in that time span alone to completely flip the game on its head.

The Quakers desperately attempted a comeback in the final minutes, but Maryland's watertight defense kept them off the scoresheet for the remainder of the game.

While the end result wasn't what they wanted, especially after coming so close to victory, the Red and Blue showed they could hang with a national powerhouse on its home turf. Despite losing a class full of stars, including attacker Simon Mathias, midfielder Tyler Dunn, and goalie Reed Junkin, Penn had no shortage of talent in its returning lineup.

In addition, the 15 goals the Quakers scored was more than its output in 10 of last year's 16 games, which bodes well for the team's future.

"We have to understand how to finish those games, and hopefully we'll be in that position again," Murphy said. "Given the sense that this team is pretty determined and will work hard, I think we can clean some of those things up and hopefully finish the game better next time and play better lacrosse overall."

Penn only has a week to recover before it faces another top-15 side in Duke next Saturday in Charlotte, N.C.