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Senior Sam Handley scored three goals for Penn's men's lacrosse team in a game against Cornell on March 26, 2022. Credit: Julia Van Lare

In a Saturday afternoon affair against the No. 4 team in the nation, No. 7 Penn (4-2, 1-1 Ivy) defended its home turf with a 15-11 victory over the Cornell Big Red (6-1, 1-1). Senior Sam Handley and sophomore Cam Rubin each scored three goals in the effort, as many Quakers impressed in the crucial mid-season game. 

Coming into this matchup, the Red and Blue needed to prepare to keep pace with a strong, undefeated Cornell team. Penn started quickly with a first-minute unassisted goal from graduate student Ben Bedard. Outside of the opening fireworks, the first quarter was largely uneventful until towards the end, which culminated in a Big Red goal and a two-goal retaliation by the Quakers.

Coming into the second period, it was unclear whether the pace of the game would change. However, following a cross-check penalty on Cornell player Jayson Singer, the Penn attacking line pressed hard, resulting in an unassisted perimeter shot by Handley into the upper right corner of the goal. This marked the start of strong offensive momentum for the Quakers, with a quick draw control by senior Jamie Zusi, transition to senior Dylan Gergar and culmination of a goal by senior Kaleb Fernandez. 

The strong offensive play left the Cornell midfield unhinged as the Big Red lost its first draw possession of the game from a delay of game call on Cornell's Angelo Petrakis. The Quakers were able to quickly capitalize on this error with a bounce shot outside the fan by Rubin. The Red and Blue enthusiasm proved to be short-lived, however, when an off-sides call swayed the momentum of the game, leading to a Cornell goal. 

The Cornell offense cracked through the Penn defense again, initially halted by a tip from senior goalie Patrick Burkinshaw, before bringing the score to 6-3. The two teams traded goals again before Burkinshaw destroyed Cornell’s following attempt to score, leading to a quick Penn transition through the defense and a beautiful shot by Rubin, followed by another impressive Handley placement. Needless to say, the Quakers finished the half in a dominant position, up 9-4.

The third quarter was where Penn's composure began to fall apart somewhat. Burkinshaw, junior defenseman Peter Blake, and sophomore defenseman Brendan Lavelle made some tough stops, but five minutes into the quarter, the transition game began to fall apart. 

The defense and midfield were unable to transition the ball out of the defensive third, throwing interceptions and generally missing passes and connections. The defense struggled to maintain composure, letting in four Big Red goals. The quarter ended in an aggressive bid for a ground ball by senior Piper Bond, Blake, and a few Cornell players that resulted in one of the Big Red being left badly injured and carried off the field. 

“I think it all came down to poise. We did not have enough of it in the third quarter, especially clearing the ball,” Burkinshaw said. “That was our problem. We had a couple of stickwork issues, we have to work on our stickwork this week so that’s going to be our focus this week.”

Entering the fourth quarter, the score now 12-8 in favor of Penn, junior James Shipley got into the action by knocking a ball off the goalie’s foot before getting the rebound and securing a redemption goal. This momentum was followed by a tight cut around the crease by senior Jack Schultz, who made a close-in shot assisted by Gergar. 

The two teams continued to make defensive stops, preventing any scoring for five minutes, until Gergar forced a penalty, leading to a one-minute man-up situation for Cornell and a two-goal conversion. The Penn defense countered with a quick transition and another Schultz goal off the right side of the crease, securing a five-score lead. The Big Red finished the game with a final goal in a one-on-one with Burkinshaw after a brief defensive fall through.

However, the Red and Blue prevented any more of the Big Red's attackmen from penetrating towards the goal for the remainder of the game.

The result was an impressive and unexpected 15-11 win for the Quakers. 

“We refused to get stepped on by Cornell, who has a pretty high-powered offense," head coach Mike Murphy said after the game. "Except for a couple self-inflicted wounds in the clearing game, I felt like we played better on defense today." 

“Today was very gratifying because it was the first time we actually played well on offense and defense on the same day,” Murphy added.

Penn will face off against Yale (4-2, 1-1) next Saturday,  where it will look to continue its momentum from this big win.