The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Sophomore attacker Cam Rubin fights for a ground ball during the game against Georgetown at Franklin Field on Feb. 19. Credit: Samantha Turner

It was a clash of the titans in Princeton, N.J. over the weekend, but Penn men’s lacrosse came up just short to the Tigers, losing in overtime 21-20.

This Saturday, the Ivy League lacrosse season opened with a highly anticipated matchup between Penn (3-2, 0-1 Ivy) and Princeton (5-1, 1-0), who ranked No. 6 and No. 3 in the nation, respectively. Penn, with its focused defensive mindset, looked to contain the high-scoring Tigers, who’d put up over 15 goals in three of its first five matchups, something the Quakers had yet to do all season until Saturday.

Princeton immediately took control of the game early on. Within the first five minutes, Princeton took a 3-0 lead and looked to be in complete control. Its immediate success on offense came as no surprise: Princeton ranks second in the nation in scoring percentage, having a .379 success rate on goal, trailing only Maryland. 

The matchup also saw a contest between two of the best scorers in the nation. Princeton junior Alex Slusher, who came into the game averaging 3.6 goals per game, ranks seventh in the nation in that category. Penn senior Dylan Gergar, on the other hand, ranks second in the nation for goals per game, averaging 4.00.

Both players finished under their averages, with Slusher notching three goals and Gergar scoring two. Gergar, however, finished with five total points compared to Slusher’s three, as the senior attacker chipped in three assists.

Princeton’s Erik Peters was also key to keeping the early lead. The reigning Ivy League Player of the Week, Peters came into the game after a strong showing at Rutgers where he had 21 saves. Meanwhile, defending Penn’s goal was senior Patrick Burkinshaw, who had an average save rate of .572 coming into the game.

Ironically, neither of their two leading scorers nor their reliable goalies would be the standout performers for either team.

Instead, Penn’s hero was sophomore Cam Rubin, who scored the first goal for Penn. The opening goal for the Quakers was indicative of Rubin’s performance for the rest of the game. Rubin was huge for Penn Saturday, scoring on the man-up opportunities and firing off quick shots that Peters could not keep up with. He finished the day with career-high stats, scoring seven goals and accumulating two assists.

“It was terrific,” coach Mike Murphy said. “He was seeing the ball better, seeing the cage, shooting the ball well. He was terrific. I felt so happy for him because he wasn’t playing so well, wasn’t shooting so great previously, but he settled in and got the ball out of his stick quickly. [He] was shooting the lights out of the ball — the goalie just couldn’t see it.” 

After Rubin’s goal, graduate student midfielder Ben Bedard followed up with a goal to bring the score to 3-2. Just when it looked like Penn would have the momentous advantage, Princeton stopped the Quakers in their tracks, scoring two to make the score 5-2 at the end of the first quarter. The Tigers then went on a 4-1 scoring run in the opening of the second, bringing the score to 9-3 with 8:23 left in the half.

A six-goal deficit made the odds look nearly impossible to come back from. But Penn wasn’t going down that easily. Senior Sam Handley scored two goals and Gergar scored another. While Princeton senior attacker Chris Brown scored, Penn finished the half only trailing by three. At the half, the score was 11-8 after a goal by Rubin with 4.3 seconds left in the half, looking poised to make a comeback.

The Quakers took the momentum to start the second half thanks again to Rubin, who scored back-to-back goals and made it a one-goal game at 11-10. Princeton took the energy right after, going on a 4-1 scoring run to make the score 15-11. But then it became all Penn for the rest of the third quarter. The Quakers put on a shooting clinic, going on a 6-1 scoring run to finish the quarter tied at 16-16. The scoring run featured some exciting goals, including a goal scored by sophomore James Shipley with five seconds left on the shot clock.  

Murphy decided to switch things up in the fourth quarter: He subbed out Burkinshaw in the cage for sophomore Emmet Carroll. Carroll had not seen the field at all during the game. 

"[The substitution] was more about our defense than our goal play — not even our defense," Murphy said. "We were just giving up transition shots and things like that, so we just weren't really putting [Burkinshaw] in a position to be successful. And I felt like making a change, giving us a little spark."

And with a new goalie in, the Tigers decided to test him right off the bat. To counteract Penn’s quick goal by graduate student Jack Schultz, Princeton scored two goals to make it a 17-19 lead for the home team. However, with Carroll’s defense at the cage tightening up — only letting in one more goal in regulation — and the Quaker offense firing up — featuring Rubin’s seventh goal and freshman Ben Smith’s first goal — the game was all tied up at 20-20 with one minute left.

Penn had possession for the last minute, and with a full 60 on the shot clock, it looked poised to take the potential game-winning goal. However, the shot was too low and Peters was able to secure the ball and give possession to Princeton, and the game went to overtime.  

After Princeton gained possession, the Tigers would not miss their chance to steal the victory. Answering the call for Princeton was Brown, who let his shot go as soon as he realized that Penn was down a player when one of their defensive men's sticks broke. 

Brown was also the hero for Princeton the entire game, leading the team today with six goals and accumulating three assists. 

Currently, six of the seven Ivy League teams are ranked in the poll, and the seventh team, Dartmouth, is receiving votes. And with the Ivy League Tournament win sitting as the key to making the National Tournament, every Ivy League game holds a significant weight. Expect each of Penn’s Ivy League matchups in the future to feel just like this one.

And for Penn, that’s just what it wants to have happen. 

“We love these games. Today was fun,” Murphy said. “We’ve had five of these [close games] this year. … We’re comfortable in these close situations, and we played well down the stretch. We broke a defensive stick and that’s how they won it. We’re not ashamed of that. And if that’s what it takes to beat us every week, then we're gonna win a lot more games than we lose.”