Taking games down to the wire has been the theme for Penn men’s lacrosse two games into the 2022 season, and on Saturday against Duke, the Quakers' grit proved to be enough to help Penn complete an upset victory in thrilling fashion.
The Quakers' Saturday trip up to Levittown, N.Y. for a neutral-site matchup with No. 7 Duke (5-2) was preceded by a 10-8 loss against No. 3 Georgetown (3-0) in their season opener. After matching the Hoyas goal for goal for much of the game, Penn fell behind late and could not muster enough offense to close the gap. Entering Saturday’s contest, coach Mike Murphy’s squad was looking to flip the script and enter the win column for the first time in 2022.
With the help of two timely goals by James Shipley and Jack Schultz, Penn (1-1) was able to do just that, leaving New York with a 14-13 overtime victory over the Blue Devils.
Duke struck first on Saturday with a pair of goals from Andrew McAdorey and Jake Caputo. But the Quakers pushed right back and knotted the game at two halfway through the first quarter courtesy of goals from junior Gabe Furey and senior Dylan Gergar. Gergar finished the day with six goals, bringing his total to 10 through Penn’s first two games this season. The attacker’s six goals also extended his six-game streak of scoring four or more goals.
Gergar has been a steady presence for the Quakers’ offense early this season, and in his final year with the program, he continues to be a key part of Murphy’s offensive strategy. Saturday afternoon proved exactly how much impact Gergar can have in Penn’s offense.
“Dylan scored a bunch, and he played great,” Murphy said. “He didn’t really force it too much. … Most of it was letting the offense come to him, taking good shots, and shooting them well. He did everything well.”
Throughout the game, Penn traded goals with Duke, neither team generating separation from the other. In addition to Gergar, Penn had six other players find the net on Saturday afternoon. The Blue Devils were paced on offense by graduate midfielder Nakeie Montgomery, a USILA All-American first team honoree in 2021. Montgomery, who is also a member of the Duke football program, scored four goals and added two assists. 2021 ACC Freshman of the Year Brennan O’Neill also found the net twice.
Duke graduate attacker Sean Lulley, who transferred to the Blue Devils following his graduation from Penn, added a goal in the fourth quarter as well.
After finding the net early and often in the final period, both teams hit a scoring drought following Duke attacker Dyson Williams’ goal with 4:25 in the game. That goal gave the Blue Devils a 13-12 edge, which lasted until the final few seconds of the game. It wasn’t until, with just two seconds left on the game clock, Penn junior James Shipley found the net to send the game into overtime.
A few minutes after that, with under a minute left in the first overtime period, Jack Schultz found the net for the Quakers to give the team a sudden-death victory. The goal, which was Schultz’s only of the game, came while Penn was still trying to sort out its last-minute substitutions.
“Credit to him because we talked about setting something up within our offense, and he comes in [while] we were still subbing,” Murphy said. “They were trying to deny Sam Handley up top, and that created a little bit more space. Jack accelerated and created a little separation and came underneath and stuck a really nice shot on the far pipe. That was the difference in the game.”
The goal helped the Quakers avoid the same issue that hurt them down the stretch against Georgetown, during which they faced the same situation but came up short.
“I was proud of our grit and resolve,” Murphy said. “I don’t think it was our sharpest, cleanest game that we could play on offense, but I think we learned a lot last week. [We had] a similar situation, brought it to within one and couldn’t close against Georgetown. This week, we put ourselves in the same situation to step up and make the plays we needed to make. … I felt great about how our guys responded to that situation.”
Saturday’s win gives Penn something to build on heading into next weekend, when the team will travel down to Charlotte, N.C. to play Penn State (2-3).
“On offense I think we have the most room for growth,” Murphy said. “[We had] a few times where it looked like we were playing Penn lacrosse. … We’re going to try to get back to that as we prepare for Penn State.”