SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Playing in its first NCAA game since 2006, a sloppy performance by the Penn men's lacrosse team could have been expected.
Despite an uneven offensive performance through most of the first half, the Quakers were still in a position to make fourth-seeded Notre Dame sweat as the teams went to the halftime break. However, the Irish were completely dominant after that point, and the Quakers had no answer. In the end, Penn lost to ND, 13-6.
Notre Dame -- which spent a few weeks toward the end of the season ranked No. 1 nationally -- advances to next weekend's quarterfinal round in Foxboro, Mass. The Quakers, meanwhile, finish the 2011 season 8-7 and will look to build on their best Ivy League finish since 1989 and their first NCAA appearance since 2006.
Notre Dame was an NCAA finalist last year, and the Irish showed every bit of its postseason experience on Saturday. They outshot Penn 41-24 and won 17 of the game's 23 faceoffs to keep possession most of the day. Only a standout performance by the Quakers' freshman goalie, Brian Feeney, kept this game from getting completely out of hand. He had eight saves alone in the second quarter, and finished the game with 14.
Notre Dame's first goal came on transition and was a thing of beauty, as long-stick middie caught Westy Hopkins in mid-stride and Hopkins easily converted in front of Feeney.
After a lengthy ND possession, Penn coach Mike Murphy called timeout to set his defense. Bad idea. The Irish came out of the break and scored almost immediately, Nicholas Beattie finishing a Colin Igoe feed
ND won the ensuing faceoff, and almost made it 3-0 with a shot that hit the post. However, ND's Steve Murphy was able to beat Terry Kennedy to the ball on the sideline, keeping possession with the Irish. Murphy then fed Beattie, and this time the shot was true. Just 25 seconds after that, ND won the faceoff and Sean Rogers scored his first of the game off a nice pass from Earl to make the score 4-0. Not even nine minutes had passed at that point
At the other end, Penn's possessions -- when they had them -- were sloppy and many times led to unforced turnovers. However, the Quakers finally got on the board with exactly two minutes left in the first quarter as Dan Savage held the ball on the left side, and found Rob Fitzpatrick directly in front for an easy score. The Quakers then won the ensuing faceoff, and with 26 seconds left in the quarter Kohart was able to convert an individual run along the right side into a goal over John Kemp's head.
Both teams had opportunities early in the second quarter, but ND drew first blood in the stanza when Pat Cotter came down the right side and fired a shot that beat Feeney over his right shoulder. Penn won the ensuing draw, but another unforced turnover doomed the Quakers when Murphy rifled home a left-handed shot from up top to make it 6-2.
Savage got one of those goals back with 7:27 left with an unassisted effort from the right side. However, ND made it a four-goal game one minute later when Zach Brenneman beat Feeney to a rebounded shot behind the goal, then got in front and released a shot that just beat Feeney and got into the goal.
John Conneely made it 7-4 with a nice individual effort from behind the goal. He beat his short-stick defender, got in front of the post on the left side, and hit a low-angle turnaround that went under the crossbar. Just a minute after that, Morgan Griff ran with the first midfield unit, and the union paid off as he ripped an unassisted goal from the right side to make it 7-5.
It ended up being Penn's last goal for a period of 27 minutes, 12 seconds.
Notre Dame made it 8-5 with 1:58 left in the half when Max Pfeifer drew an extra defender and found Colin Igoe, who turned around and split Feeney's legs with a low shot on the right side. That was the score when the teams went to the break.
The third quarter started off fairly slowly, with the first goal coming after six minutes as XXX fired home a shot from long range. With 6:14 left, Brenneman made it 10-5 with a nice left-handed shot from about 12 yards out that beat Feeney past his right foot. Ryan Foley assisted the goal.
Notre Dame got a bit of the luck of the Irish to make it 11-5 with 10:44 left in the fourth. A pass intended for one Irish player was deflected by a Penn defender's stick, and instead bounced to Hopkins who was wide open in front of the Penn goal. He put a shot past Feeney's left foot.
Penn's lengthy offensive drought finally ended with 5:43 left in the final quarter, when Will Amling made a nice offensive move and finished a left-handed effort. However, a little more than a minute later ND took advantage of a transition play that caught Penn flat-footed. Igoe got the goal, with Bobby Smith credited with the assist. The Irish then scored another quick-strike goal with Igoe finishing a Keppeler.