PHILADELPHIA - The Penn men’s lacrosse team is ready to rock and roll in 2008.
The Quakers open the new campaign Saturday afternoon at Franklin Field, hosting its neighborhood rival Drexel. Faceoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
"We are excited to go," said head coach Brian Voelker, who enters his sixth season with the Quakers. "You are always a little extra jacked up for the first game, but I think that the proximity of our opponent and the fact that they are ranked just adds even more fuel to the game. We are looking forward to Saturday."
While this will be Penn's opener, Drexel -- ranked 18th in the preseason coaches' poll -- has already been in action once, falling to No. 3 Virginia, 11-7, last Sunday in Philadelphia.
"I think most or all of our guys saw that game, whether they went to it live or watched it on TV," said Voelker. "I was hoping they might follow the from of last year, when they beat Virginia but then lost their second game. But there is no doubt they are a good team and they will be a good test for us."
Some notes entering Saturday’s game...
Penn returns 20 letterwinners from the 2007 team that finished 6-7 overall and tied for third in the Ivy League with a 3-3 mark.
Penn -- which is looking for its third NCAA Championship bid in five years after not having one from 1989 to 2003 -- has finished with a .500 or better mark in the Ivy League three of the last four years, including a 4-2 record in 2006.
Among the returnees are nine starters -- two on attack (Craig Andrzejewski and Casey O'Rourke), two on the first midfield unit (J.J. Lian and Garvey Heiderman), one on defense (Max Mauro), one in goal (Chris Casey), and all three on the face-off unit (X-man Justin Lynch, wings Brian Weiss and Brett Hughes).
Andrzejewski led the Quakers in all three scoring categories last year with 24 goals and 25 assists for 49 points. He more than doubled every one of his teammates in the points category, and more than tripled every teammate in assists.
Andrzejewski was a USILA honorable mention All-America in 2007, as well as a second-team All-Ivy pick (now-graduated Matt Kelleher also received second-team All-Ivy).
O’Rourke finished the 2007 season with 12 goals and eight assists for 20 points, good for third on the team.
From the midfield unit, Heiderman scored 12 goals and had 16 points -- including the game-winning goal in overtime against Yale -- while Lian had 12 goals and 13 points.
Also in the midfield, expect to see plenty of senior Glenn Goebels, junior Drew Collins and sophomore Ryan Bailey. Collins is a two-year regular who scored 13 points last year, while Bailey saw time in 11 games as a freshman. Goebels, meanwhile, played a lot near the end of the season and scored a goal in Penn’s 12-10 upset at Brown.
On defense, expect Hughes to join Mauro -- Hughes saw lots of action last year and was a high school All-America.
Sophomore Joe Kelly may not have the size, but he certainly has the game. The 5-foot-7 defensive middie led Penn with 12 caused turnovers as a freshman last year, and also had 23 ground balls. He also saw time with the face-off unit in 2007.
Weiss led the Quakers with 54 ground balls in 2007; he has 96 after just two years in a Penn uniform. The junior also had eight caused turnovers last year, second on the team behind Kelly. Weiss was a member of the McDonogh School team that was ranked as the top high school program in the nation his senior year.
In goal, Casey started the last nine games of 2007; he had a .492 save percentage and 9.87 goals-against average as a freshman. Casey backstopped Georgetown Prep’s No. 1-ranked high school team in 2006, and one of his defenseman on that squad was current Penn teammate Brendan Saxon.