Despite outshooting the Blue Devils 57 to 36, Penn men’s lacrosse suffered its first loss of the season Saturday afternoon to No. 10 Duke in a tight 14-12 contest.
In its home opener, Penn (1-1) started off very strong with senior attacker Dylan Gergar scoring the game's first goal off of an assist from sophomore attacker Ben Smith after just 33 seconds of play. Gergar would tack on an assist a few minutes later, when senior midfielder Gabe Furey doubled Penn’s lead. After calling its first timeout, Duke (4-1) would quickly regroup.
After the first two goals, the first quarter quickly became a defense-heavy affair; both teams took their time sizing each other up. As time passed though, it became clear that the game was going to be decided by the team that had the more disciplined defense and took advantage of all its opportunities. Unfortunately for the Quakers, that team was not them.
With just under six minutes to play in the first quarter, Duke's Andrew McAdorey would earn the Blue Devils’ first goal of the match, faking out several Penn defenders en route to slotting in his shot past Penn's junior goalkeeper Emmet Carroll. Not even 20 seconds later, Duke would tie up the game when defender Wilson Stephenson would find his shot hit the back of the net.
This would prove to be the offensive spark that Duke was looking for while also marking the start of a defensive collapse for Penn, as the Blue Devils would go on to score eight unanswered goals.
Adding to the trouble was that the Penn offense struggled to score. The offense moved the ball well, but just couldn’t seem to capitalize on its chances. Even though Penn dominated time of possession, the team would come away with no goals to show for nearly 20 minutes of effort. Heading into halftime, the only solace the Quakers had was that they had scored the last goal, when senior midfielder James Shipley scored from distance with zeros on the clock to make the score 8-3.
“We didn’t really shoot as well or pick up ground balls as well as we we would like,” coach Mike Murphy said. “The defensive was a little out of sync and the ball didn’t move as quickly as it normally does on offense.”
The second half showed a marked improvement for Penn; they would go on their own run to bring the score to within two goals. However, it was too little way too late. The team’s inability to finish its attacking opportunities much earlier in the game came back to haunt it as Duke’s defense bent but did not break.
“Credit to Duke,” Murphy said. “They outplayed us and deserved to win.”
Penn’s failure to win faceoffs, remain disciplined on defense, and be more clinical with attacking opportunities created the perfect recipe for a loss to an unforgiving opponent. Penn finished the game winning just 11 faceoffs out of 29. Penn also converted just 12 of its 56 shots into goals. Moving forward, improving offensive efficiency will be a pivotal focus for the team.
Penn will look to bounce back from the tough loss when they travel to State College, Pa. to play Penn State on March 4 at 3:00 p.m.