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Penn men's lacrosse team celebrates after a goal against Georgetown on Feb. 17.

Credit: Weining Ding

Philadelphia woke up to a fresh layer of snow on the ground, but the weather wasn’t the only thing that was cold today. No. 12 Penn men’s lacrosse got off to an icy start in its home and season opener against Georgetown.

While Penn entered the game with plenty of rust to shake off from the long offseason, Georgetown came to Franklin Field with a clear goal on its mind: to pick up its first win of the season after losing its first two games. This showed, as the Hoyas went up 5-0 early en route to a 12-9 win. 

Things seemed dire for the Red and Blue (0-1) from the opening faceoff as the Hoyas (1-2) completely dominated the first period of play. In that first period, Georgetown put five goals past senior goalkeeper Emmet Carroll while winning all six faceoffs and outshooting the Quakers 12-4. Even when Penn was able to force a turnover, it was messy, with the ball spending more time on the ground than being passed around by the players.

The Quakers struggled, for the most part, to get any momentum going in the first 15 minutes of play. Misplaced passes and careless penalties gave the edge to the Hoyas, who for their part, came into the game well prepared on defense. A one-minute penalty against senior defender and Insider Lacrosse Preseason All-American Brendan Lavelle after a rash slash seemed to summarize the frustration the Quakers felt for most of the first period as the team came out flat and uninspiring. 

“[If] we don't dig ourselves into a hole, maybe it's a little bit different of an outcome,” coach Mike Murphy said. “But you know, faceoffs were an issue, ground balls [went] all over the field. So, credit to Georgetown.”

As the sun came out with the start of the second period, the Quakers finally started to heat up. Two minutes into the second period, Penn was able to force Georgetown into committing a shot clock violation. Heads up play from junior attacker Ben Smith led to the ball finding junior attacker Luke DiNola wide open and alone on the crease. DiNola bounced the ball into the back of the net, scoring the team’s first goal of the season at what couldn’t have been a better time. 

The Quakers got to work, attempting to dig themselves out of the five-goal hole. They came close at times. Carroll made a stand-in goal that demonstrated why he was recently named to the 2024 Tewaaraton Award Watch List while senior attacker/midfielder Robert Schain scored a goal that saw him completely lose his defender, and injected some much-needed energy back into the Penn sidelines. Junior attacker Tynan Walsh started off his season strong with a team-leading three scores, his first of which drew the Quakers to within two goals of the Hoyas.

Credit: Weining Ding

Penn attacker Tynan Walsh looks to score against Georgetown midfielder Jack Leary on Feb. 17.

However, the Red and Blue seemed to have no answers for Georgetown midfielder Graham Bundy Jr., who scored from ease from all over the field. Most eye catching were two scores that Bundy put away from very far out. Bundy finished the game with a game-high four goals in addition to two assists, including the last goal of the game that sealed the deal for the Hoyas. 

Ultimately, the Red and Blue were unable to overcome the initial deficit. But, there were plenty of positives from the season opener. The immediate impact of freshman attacker/midfielder Leo Hoffman, who finished the game with two goals, bodes well for the offensive potential of this team as it moves forward. The starting defensive unit led by Lavelle was composed mainly of sophomores and, while caught flat-footed at first, quickly gelled together as the game progressed to keep the Quakers in the game. 

While the plethora of young talent is a good sign for the future, the team’s overall relative lack of experience showed against Georgetown. When the game got chippy and more intense, freshman midfielder Anthony McMullan laid out the opposing Georgetown player to set the Hoyas up with an unreleasable man-up opportunity, during which the Hoyas were able to score two goals. When McMullan committed the penalty, the Quakers were down just two — when he was able to return to the game, the deficit had doubled to four. 

“We just made some silly mistakes with some young guys,” said Murphy. “But clearly credit to Georgetown. They faced off very well. They beat us in the ground ball battle. We did some stuff on offense that we needed to adjust …. They jumped out to five nothing lead and from there, we were trying to play catch up.” 

Moving forward, the focus for the Red and Blue will be on fundamentals, especially as they continue to incorporate their talented freshman class. With its first game out of the way and the rust all shaken off, there is still plenty of time for the Quakers to get this season back on track as they work out all the minor kinks that were highlighted in today’s loss. 

“I think the big thing is just continuing to do some fundamental things,” Murphy said. “A lot of little things like fundamental things like getting cut, holding on to the ball, giving up off-ball stuff … so just trying to like be more fundamentally sound than we were today.”

Penn men’s lacrosse will take the field next against UAlbany on Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. at Franklin Field with the goal of securing its first win of the season on its mind.