Despite generations of former Penn men’s lacrosse players in the crowds for Alumni Day, no one shone brighter than the current players on the field as they powered through to an intense 17-16 win over Ancient Eight rival Yale, in front of one of the rowdiest crowds Franklin Field has seen this spring.
After opening the game with four straight goals, it seemed like No. 19 Penn (4-4, 2-1 Ivy) would cruise to its first blowout win of the season. However, No. 20 Yale (3-4, 0-3) soon found itself back in the game after a series of unforced turnovers and rash penalties gifted the Bulldogs several opportunities on goal. While the Quakers' tough defensive unit kept the Bulldogs at bay for quite some time, eventually they were able to breakthrough.
“We've been pretty good on defense this year,” said coach Mike Murphy. “But last week and this week, we weren't as consistently strong as you'd like to be on defense.”
Yale's comeback efforts would prove successful, as the team snagged the lead in the middle of the second quarter off a five-goal scoring streak. Heading into halftime, the Red and Blue found themselves down 11-9 — shaken by the sudden turn of events, clawing to regain the lead.
The second half picked up where the first half ended, with the Quakers winning the draw just to turn it over in yet another unforced error. Yale proceeded to capitalize on Penn’s carelessness, increasing its lead to four goals. In that time span, the Red and Blue had three consecutive turnovers while attempting to clear the ball. However, Penn sophomore attacker Ben Smith finally seemed to find his groove as he would score two goals in the latter half of the third quarter to cut the lead to two.
In the short break between the third and fourth quarters, members of the 1988 team that made it to the Final Four of the NCAA Division I Championships that year — a program record yet to be broken — and members of the 1983 Ivy League Championship team were recognized. A sliver of those teams' magic seemed to have been left behind on the field as the Quakers came out and dominated the Bulldogs in the fourth, eventually giving way to the win. Sophomore attacker Tynan Walsh scored what would be the game-winning goal with one minute left in the game.
“It was just a game of runs,” said Murphy, reflecting a sentiment similar to the team's last time out. “And thankfully, we had last run.”
Both Walsh and Smith would finish the game leading the team with four goals apiece.
But no thriller would be complete without a last second save to secure the win. In Emiliano Martinez World Cup Final fashion, Junior goalkeeper Emmet Carroll made a point-blank save with just six seconds left on the clock to close out the game for the Red and Blue. The crowd, that was preparing for heartbreak and an overtime showdown, erupted into cheers.
“I was just doing what coach Murphy tells me to do all the time,” said Carroll. “I just got set, saw the ball, attacked it, and it worked out.”
While the save may have been a surprise for the fans in the stands, Junior defender Brendan Lavelle — who has played with Carroll since they were four — found it to be nothing out of the ordinary.
“He's done that to offensives forever,” said Lavelle. “As long as I can remember, he just takes the will out of the shooters, which is awesome.”
While Penn was able to close this game out, Penn’s knack to keep games too close for comfort has been an issue this entire season. The team has yet to win back-to-back games, or contests with margins greater than two goals. With a matchup against another Ivy League foe coming up, the team will not be celebrating this win too much.
“We can't rest on our laurels here,” said Carroll. “We got a really good Brown team that we're traveling up to next week. Every time we've gotten a win this year, we've lost the next week. So we're going to try to change that now.”