Last season, Penn men's lacrosse's first game was a two-goal loss against Georgetown at Franklin Field. This season, the tables were turned as it was the Quakers going into the Hoyas' house and emerging with a two-goal victory.
On Saturday afternoon at Cooper Field, Penn defeated No. 8 Georgetown 7-9, behind four goals from junior attacker Cam Rubin and excellent team defense.
"[Cam] was terrific," coach Mike Murphy said. "Not only did he score four goals, but he did it on five shots and very much within the flow of the offense."
Even though the lacrosse season is just beginning, Saturday's result could have major implications for the national rankings going forward. For the Quakers (1-0) — who entered the game ranked No. 10 in the country — a win over a Georgetown (0-2) team ranked No. 3 by the Inside Lacrosse preseason media poll could mean a significant improvement in their national profile.
"We had a good game plan and for the most part executed the game plan," Murphy said. "We played them last year and had a lot of guys back, so … it was a fun game to be a part of."
In addition to the national significance, this game was also personally meaningful to midfielder Sam Handley. The fifth-year senior from Portland, Ore. faced off against his high school teammate and training partner Tucker Dordevic.
At Ivy League preseason media days earlier this month, Handley stressed how special it was going to be to share the field with him. The matchup didn't disappoint, with Dordevic scoring three goals for the Hoyas and Handley adding a goal and assist of his own for the Red and Blue.
Though only a pair of goals separated the two teams at the sound of the final whistle, Penn controlled most of the match. The Quakers never trailed and led for over 57 out of 60 minutes. By the end of the first quarter, the Quakers led 3-1 following goals from Rubin, Handley, and senior attacker/midfielder Robert Schain.
"We scored a couple early and obviously we were able to maintain that lead throughout," Murphy said. "It would have been nice to extend [the lead] but I think that game was really about two really good defensive teams going at it."
In the second, the Hoyas scored a pair of goals less than a minute apart to tie the game before Penn tallied the next three — making the match 6-3 going into halftime.
A key to the Quakers' success throughout the first half was junior goalkeeper Emmet Carroll, who notched five saves in each of the first two quarters. Carroll — who finished the contest with 18 saves — was essential to holding Georgetown to its fewest goals in nearly two years.
Murphy credited this defensive effort to a strong game plan, as well as good individual efforts by junior defender Brendan Lavelle and senior long stick midfielder BJ Farrare.
As the teams came out of the break, the match settled into a defensive struggle. The two sides traded long possessions — with most of them yielding no breakthroughs. Penn and Georgetown each had only four shots on goal in the third — each team's lowest mark for any quarter.
Well into the fourth quarter, Penn seemed to have the match well in hand. However, the Hoyas battled back by scoring two more goals — including one by Dordevic on a counterattack — that brought the Hoyas within one with under a minute of play left. Georgetown then won the ensuing faceoff to give the team possession and a chance to tie. However, Penn was able to force a turnover and sophomore attacker Ben Smith capitalized on the empty net put the Quakers up by two for the match's final seconds.
Despite the well-earned victory, Murphy stressed how much the team can still grow, saying that "even though we weren't really clicking on offense yet, I feel like we played well enough on offense, generally having good possessions."
Saturday's win sets Penn on the right foot as the team embarks on a grueling non-conference schedule before beginning Ivy play next month. The Quakers' next match is their home opener against No. 13 Duke on Feb. 25.