While many incoming students were getting their first taste of Penn’s campus during Quaker Days, men’s lacrosse escaped the throngs of high schoolers and traveled north to Cambridge, Mass. to face Harvard. Once there, the team loudly announced its presence with a 15-9 win over the Crimson, driven by a dominant second-half performance.
Coming off of last week’s loss at Brown, this game was a must-win for the Quakers. But now, with only one game to go in its conference season, Penn (5-5, 3-2 Ivy) is fully in control of its destiny for the Ivy League tournament next month.
“We started talking about playing good, consistent lacrosse, and we did that,” coach Mike Murphy said. “I would say [today’s game] was our best overall team effort of the year, playing good offense and good defense on both ends.”
Over the first few minutes of play, Penn seemed firmly in control. The Quakers scored three quick goals — including one by junior attacker Cam Rubin on a man-up opportunity — in the first nine minutes of the first quarter, while holding the Crimson (5-5, 2-2) scoreless over that stretch.
“We had a lot of confidence out there [and] we had a really good game plan going in,” Rubin said. “The looks that we were seeing in practice based on the films we watched were all there so we just played really simple, played with each other.”
But from there, the Quaker offense stagnated, and Harvard scored two goals of its own to end the first quarter. A little under halfway into the second quarter, the Crimson took their first lead of the game at 4-3.
But Penn bounced back, with Rubin scoring his second of the game, followed quickly by senior midfielder James Shipley — who retook a lead for the Quakers. Harvard was able to score one last goal before halftime, though, so the teams were tied at five headed into the break.
Coming out of halftime, it appeared as though the second half would be much like the first: back and forth. Harvard drew first blood, but Penn tied the game back up at six less than 30 seconds later.
From there, it was off to the races. Penn scored six straight goals over the course of the third quarter, with five different Quakers getting in on the action. By the time Harvard scored again, there was under a minute left in the third quarter and Harvard was already down four.
“We knew it was going to break open for us,” Rubin said. “It was just a matter of sticking with it and being patient and playing simple.”
One of the biggest factors that contributed Penn's excellent run was its defense in man-down situations. The Quakers stopped three extra-man opportunities in the period, and overall, Harvard was 0-5 when they were man-up.
“We made some adjustments tactically, and it worked out well,” Murphy said. “Credit to [defensive coordinator Kevin Ikeda] and that unit for tweaking some things since we’d been struggling on man-down but today was our best performance of the year.”
Headed into the fourth quarter, Penn kept the game out of reach, scoring four more goals in the game’s final 15 minutes. The Quakers’ lead got up to six with 11 minutes left to play, and even though Harvard was able to score a pair of goals in the fourth, the game’s outcome was never in much jeopardy from Penn’s perspective.
Overall, the Quakers outscored Harvard 10-4 in the second half, due in large part to the excellent work of junior Emmet Carroll in the net. The goalkeeper had 16 saves, tied for his third-most this season.
“Emmet’s a brick wall back there,” Rubin said. “There’s no shot that we feel is going to go in on him. We have all the trust in the world in him.”
Up next for the Quakers is their final conference matchup of the season, at home against Dartmouth (6-4, 1-3) next Saturday for Senior Day. Penn will then close out its regular season at Albany, as the team is hoping for postseason play during the Ivy League and NCAA tournaments.