While much of Penn was still recovering from the Spring Fling concert Friday night and making its way to Penn Park for Saturday’s carnival, Penn men’s lacrosse spent Saturday afternoon at Franklin Field putting on a different kind of show: a commanding 17-6 win over Dartmouth.
With this win, Penn (6-5, 4-2 Ivy) clinched its spot to return to the Ivy League Tournament, where it emerged victorious last year. Meanwhile, Dartmouth (6-5, 1-4 Ivy) remains in the conference’s cellar, tied with Brown.
The game was lopsided from the very beginning. Senior midfielder Sam Handley scored the game’s first goal on Penn’s second possession. The Big Green answered back around a minute later, but from there, it was off to the races for Penn. The Red and Blue scored the next seven goals with six different Quakers getting in on the action.
And after Dartmouth made a man-up goal with six minutes to go until halftime to break this streak, Penn rattled off five more goals in a row, making the score an incredibly lopsided 13-2 with four minutes left in the third quarter.
Much of this success was due to the incredible skill and depth of the Penn offense. After losing senior attacker Dylan Gergar – who led the team in goals last season – to injury earlier this campaign, Penn has managed to piece together his production from a variety of sources. Overall, the Quakers fired 45 shots, and of the 25 which were on target, 17 found the back of the net.
“That’s one of our greatest assets,” Coach Mark Murphy said of the offense’s depth. “Everybody knows about Sam Handley and James Shipley and Ben Smith … but there are a bunch of guys on our team that can score.”
But another reason for such an overwhelming display was the impeccable performance of junior goalkeeper Emmet Carroll between the pipes. Through three quarters, he allowed only three goals and notched 11 saves for a season-high .786 save percentage.
“We’re just trying to stack stops and play as well as we can for 60 full minutes, one stop at a time,” Carroll said. “A lot of credit to my defense today, they gave me the shots I wanted to see.”
With the game’s overall outcome not in jeopardy for most of the second half and the Quakers holding a 12-point lead after three quarters, Murphy chose to cycle out many of his starters and reached deep into his bench. All in all, the entire roster except seven players saw action on Saturday.
Some of the new faces on the field were freshmen, including midfielder Paul Fortino, who scored his first career goal.
But others were members of a senior class in just their second full season due to COVID-19-related cancellations. The class was honored pregame, but late on Saturday, Murphy gave the class one of the greatest honors possible by having them out on the turf for what is all but certain to be their final home game.
“These are some of the best friends of my entire life … we are such a close-knit group,” senior midfielder Gabe Furey said of the class. “Although we’ve had some ups and downs with [uncontrollable circumstances], we’ve always been able to cohesively come back together and play with each other.”
One of the seniors who saw time Saturday was goalkeeper Deven Varney, playing for the first time in his career. When he replaced Carroll for the fourth quarter, those in attendance cheered and chanted his name, including when he made each of his four saves.
“That was probably my favorite moment of the year and one of the favorites of my career,” Caroll said of seeing Varney play. “He just means so much to this group. He brings so much energy, supports everyone, and he’s just a guy that everyone can turn to.”
As the game wrapped up and finally ended, the celebration continued – the families and spectators in attendance gathered to congratulate the team’s seniors on their successful careers, and the team on another good campaign.
With its conference season done, the Quakers will head to Albany next week to close out their regular season before the Ivy League tournament on May 5 and 7 in New York. Once there, who knows what will happen, but for now, Penn has guaranteed itself at least one postseason game.
“We’ve [already] had kind of a playoff mentality recently where every game is win or go home,” Furey said. “We just want another week with each other every week. We’re just playing for each other and hopefully, the tree keeps rolling in our direction."