PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania men’s lacrosse team is off to a solid start this season, having beaten Denver and Saint Joseph’s and losing by just three goals at defending NCAA champion Duke. The Quakers return to action this Saturday against a team that has become arguably their biggest non-conference rival, Villanova. They face off with the Wildcats at 5 p.m. at Villanova Stadium in a game that will be televised on Fox College Sports.
GAME 4 – #14 PENN (2-1) at VILLANOVA (1-2)
Saturday, March 8, 2014 * 5 p.m.
Villanova Stadium (Villanova, Pa.)
TV: Fox College Sports (John Brickley, Evan Washburn)
The Series with Villanova
This has developed into one of the hottest rivalries in college lacrosse. Penn leads the overall series, 16-8, but these teams have played every year since 1998 and in that time the series is deadlocked, 8-8, with neither team winning more than three in a row at any point. Eight of these last 16 games played have been decided by a goal -- two of them going overtime -- while another was decided by two goals and two others were decided by three goals. Last year, at the Independence Classic (played on a neutral site, PPL Park in Chester, Pa.), Penn defeated Villanova 13-9.
The Wildcats are one of nine teams receiving votes in this week’s USILA poll after defeating Drexel (11-10 in OT) and losing to Delaware (11-9) last week. Villanova opened the season with a 7-6, triple-overtime loss at Lehigh. Kevin O’Neil leads the ‘Cats in scoring so far this season, with five goals and six points, while Austin Frederick also has six points (4g, 2a). Johnny Gallaway has five points (3g, 2a), while Eric Gartner has scored four goals and Jack Curran has netted three. Long-stick middie John LoCascio (2a) was named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List last week. In all, 11 different players have scored for Villanova. At the other end, Dan Willis has played every minute in goal; he has an 8.57 goals-against average and a .533 save percentage.
*Penn is ranked 14th in this week’s USILA national coaches poll; the Quakers started the season ranked 18th, and were 20th last week. The other Ivy League teams currently ranked are Yale (10), Princeton (13) and Cornell (15).
*Penn also is ranked 10th in the Lacrosse Magazine weekly poll, and 13th in the Warrior Inside Lacrosse media poll.
*In Penn’s win over then-No. 6 Denver last Saturday, freshman Kevin Brown scored three goals for his first collegiate hat trick. On Monday, he was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week.
*Sophomore Nick Doktor had two goals and two assists against the Pioneers, while junior Isaac Bock had two goals and one assist. In all, eight different players scored for Penn in the game.
*Senior middie Zack Losco scored once, extending his point-scoring streak to 12 games; he may have also made one of the most important plays of the game, intercepting a Denver pass late in the first half, running the ball down the field, then feeding Bock for a last-second goal.
*In the Denver game, Penn was down 5-1 after the first quarter but then outscored the Pioneers 11-5 the rest of the way (5-2 in the second, 2-1 in the third, 4-2 in the fourth).
*On the face-off X, Penn was just 3/14 in the first half, but 7/10 in the second. Senior Danny Feeney ended the game 9/18.
*In Penn’s win over Saint Joseph’s last Tuesday, 12 different players scored the Quakers’ 14 goals. Only Bock (2) and fellow junior Joe McCallion (2) scored more than once.
*At the other end, Penn’s defense held SJU scoreless for more than 37 minutes from the first to the fourth quarter, allowing the Quaker to turn a 3-3 tie into a blowout victory.
*On the face-off X, Penn went 15/22 against the Hawks (Feeney 12/18, McCallion 2/2, Austin Kreinz 1/2).
*Senior Drew Belinsky (1g, 1a) and sophomore Pat Berkery (2a) also had two points against the Blue Devils, while the other goalscorers were McCallion, Bock and Brown (his first collegiate goal).
*At the other end, senior Brian Feeney has started slowly in the first quarter (7 saves, 12 goals) but been solid after that (20 saves, 11 goals) in all three games.
*Looking at Penn’s 12-game schedule, six of the Quakers’ opponents are ranked this week: Duke (4), Yale (10), Denver (12), Princeton (13), Cornell (15), and St. John’s (19). As mentioned above, a seventh -- this weekend’s opponent, Villanova -- is receiving votes this week.
*This is nothing new for Penn under Head Coach Mike Murphy; last year, the Quakers’ Strength of Schedule was ranked second at the end of the season (behind only Princeton), while in 2011 it ranked first.
*Seniors Belinsky, Losco and Maxx Meyer are this year’s captains. Meyer was a captain last year, as well.
*Penn was picked 11th in Inside Lacrosse’s Preseason Face-Off Yearbook; the ranking was made by the Inside Lacrosse staff. Among Ivy League teams, only Yale (10th) was ahead of the Quakers. Princeton (13th) and Cornell (17th) were also in the preseason Top 20.
*Three players earned preseason All-America honorable mention from Inside Lacrosse -- Losco, Meyer, and Feeney.
*Last Thursday, Losco and Feeney were among 52 men’s players named to the Tewaaraton Award’s initial watch list. They were two of just eight Ivy League players on the list (two each from Yale, Princeton and Cornell).
*In addition, Penn was picked fourth in IL’s Ivy League preview, with Losco and Feeney receiving preseason All-Ivy recognition. The conference standings and All-Ivy team was projected by the Ancient Eight coaches.
*In January, Losco was picked in the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) Draft by the Charlotte (N.C.) Hounds. The senior middie was the 47th pick overall.
*Penn finished last year No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (7.38), eighth in man-up offense (.429), and ninth in caused turnovers per game (8.92).
*Individually, Feeney finished last year second nationally in goals-against average (7.29) and ninth in save percentage (.589). He played all but 2:29 between the pipes last year.
*Losco was Penn’s leading goalscorer a year ago, with 23, and he added six assists for 29 points.
*Bock had 20 goals and five assists last season, finishing third on the Quakers’ scoring list, while Belinsky was fourth with 23 points (14g, 9a).
*Meyer was second on the team last year in caused turnovers (20) and also had 36 ground balls.
*On the X, Danny Feeney -- Brian’s twin brother -- took 203 face-offs last year and won 110 of them for a .542 win percentage. That was good for 25th nationally.
*Overall, this year’s Penn team boasts 10 players who started at least five games last season: Losco (13), Belinsky (13), Meyer (13), B Feeney (13), D Feeney (13), Bock (5), Matt McMahon (12), Will Laco (11), Chris Hupfeldt (7), and Doktor (6).
Penn opens Ivy League play next Saturday with archrival Princeton; the Quakers and Tigers will face off at 3 p.m. at Princeton’s Class of 1952 Stadium.