VILLANOVA, Pa. - The Penn men's lacrosse team made a gallant comeback Saturday and forced overtime with No. 20 Villanova. The ninth-ranked Quakers then won the faceoff and had first crack in the extra session, but Villanova stymied the effort and scored on its first chance to gain a 9-8 win.
This rivalry has been intense for several years now, and Saturday's game added a nice new chapter to it. For awhile it looked like Villanova was going to run away with it, but Penn came back and set the stage for the dramatic finish.
Penn had chances to win it at the end of regulation and again in overtime. In the OT, Penn eventually emerged from a nearly 30-second scrum with the opening faceoff and called timeout. The Quakers then set up offensively, and Corey Winkoff fed John Conneely out front. Conneely attempted an over-the-shoulder shot but it was saved by 'Nova keeper Billy Hurley. The Wildcats won the ensuing ground ball, got it down to its offensive end, and called timeout. Out of the break, Will Casertano drove in along the right side of the goal and found a wide-open Jack Rice in front. Rice caught the pass and one-timed it past Brian Feeney's right for the winner. It was Rice's game-high fourth goal of the game.
Villanove did all the scoring in the opening period, taking a 3-0 lead after 15 minutes. Kevin Cunningham got the 'Cats on the board first, finishing a Casertano feed, before Rice drained an unassisted effort. Casertano and Cunningham reversed roles for the third goal.
Penn got two of those goals back midway through the second quarter, as Drew Belinsky and then Dan Savage finished feeds from Winkoff. However, Villanova pushed its advantage to 4-2 when Cunningham scored an unassisted goal with 1:52 left before halftime.
The Wildcats opened the second-half scoring when Michael Vigilante netted his first of the game, but Belinsky scored an unassisted effort to make it 5-3. Villanova's Nick Doherty made it 6-3 with an unassisted goal, but Penn drew within one before the quarter ended as Rob Fitzpatrick finished a nice Winkoff feed and then Ryan Parietti converted a Fitzpatrick pass. It was 6-5 Villanova entering the final quarter.
Villanova looked like it might pull away, scoring twice in the first five minutes of the fourth as Rice finished Cunningham feeds. However, Dan Savage scored after beating a defender with 7:44 to play, then John Conneely converted a man-up situation with 2:35 left. After that, Winkoff got free in front with 1:19 left, and Conneely fed him for the easy score to tie the game and set up the late-game dramatics.
Winkoff finished the game with five assists, giving him 76 for his career which pushes him into fifth place all-time at Penn. Belinsky and Savage had two goals each, while Conneely finished with a goal and an assist on the day.
For Villanova, Cunningham had two goals and three assists while Casertano had a goal and two assists.
Penn outshot Villanova for the day 29-24, including a staggering 21-8 after halftime. Feeney had six saves for the Quakers, while Hurley ended the game with eight.
Penn is off until next Saturday, when the Quakers open the Ivy League portion of their 2011 schedule with Princeton. The teams will face off at 3 p.m. on Franklin Field.