PHILADELPHIA - Twice this season, the Penn men's lacrosse team has faced off with a ranked opponent. In both of those games, the Quakers took a sizable lead into the final quarter, but could not hold on and lost.
Saturday afternoon at Franklin Field, the Quakers hosted No. 19 Harvard in a key Ivy League battle at Franklin Field. And once again, Penn stormed out to a large advantage heading into the final 15 minutes.
The third time, it turns out, really was a charm.
An explosive third quarter proved to be enough for the Quakers, who held on to defeat the Crimson, 12-10, and improved to 2-0 in the Ivy League. It was Penn's first win over Harvard in four years, as both teams moved to 4-2 on the season.
"We moved the ball really well all day today," said a hoarse Penn head coach Brian Voelker after the game. "We got up on Harvard in the first half, but let them get back into it. We talked about coming out hard in the third quarter, and we did. That was big for us."
Indeed, Penn held a 5-2 lead after scoring four straight goals -- two in the first quarter, two in the second. An unusual source was the start of the run, as short-stick defender Greg Sih intercepted a pass at midfield and ran in alone for the goal that tied the game at 2-2. After that, Penn went to its regular snipers -- Alex Weber, Craig Andrzejewski and J.J. Lian -- in building up the lead. Weber and Andrzejewski's goals were assisted by freshman Corey Winkoff.
Harvard drew level, however, with three goals in less than three minutes. Max Motschwiller got the run started, then fed Travis Burr to make the score 5-4 before Francis Ellis knotted the score with 4:52 left before the break.
In the third quarter, Weber and Burr traded goals, before Penn scored five in a row to gain all the momentum. Weber scored the first two in the run -- his third and fourth goals of the day -- going unassisted for the first one and finishing an Al Kohart feed for the second. Andrzejewski then sandwiched a pair of goals around a Chris Harms tally, all three of those coming off Winkoff feeds. The fourth quarter began with Penn up, 11-6.
Harvard showed it was not ready to give up, as Jesse Fehr finished a Motschwiller feed just 35 seconds into the stanza in a man-up situation. After six scoreless minutes, it looked like Penn might weather the storm when Andrzejewski scored off yet another Winkoff feed (Winkoff's sixth assist of the day), but off the ensuing faceoff Jason Duboe grabbed the loose ball and scrambled in for the score to make it 12-8.
Less than three minutes later, defenseman Kirk Bansak broke a clear and fired home a long-range shot that made the score 12-9, and with that goal Penn fans had every right to start getting nervous. However, the Quaker defense stonewalled the Crimson most of the rest of the way, getting beaten only on a man-up goal by Fehr with just 57 seconds left.
"We were in a tough situation heading into that fourth quarter," said Voelker. "On the one hand, the offense was really flowing, and you do not want to shut things down and have them lose their momentum. On the other hand, if you score, you give Harvard the opportunity to get the ball themselves on the faceoff. But I thought our defense -- Max Mauro, Tommy Dodge and Brett Hughes -- did a great job of getting us the ball back, especially down the stretch."
Penn outshot Harvard, 38-23, and forced Harvard goalkeeper Joe Pike to make nine saves. At the other end, Chris Casey had six saves to get the win.
Faceoffs also played a large role on the day, as Penn gained possession on 15 of the 23 in the game.
"Justin Lynch had a good day on faceoffs, with a lot of help from Joe Kelly and Brian Weiss," said Voelker. "You certainly look like a better defensive team when you're possessing the balla lot, and we did that today."
Things get no easier for the Quakers next weekend, as No.6 Cornell comes to town. Faceoff is scheduled for noon at Franklin Field.