The final shot of the game proved to be the most important one for the men’s lacrosse team against Penn Saturday. Co-captain Rob Schlesinger ’12 scored with 11 seconds remaining to give the Bears (4-6, 1-2 Ivy) an 11-10 victory over the Quakers (1-7, 0-4) at Franklin Field. The win, Bruno’s first conference victory of the season, puts the squad back into the hunt for a spot in the Ivy League playoffs.
“There is a tremendous sense of reward with earning this victory,” said Head Coach Lars Tiffany ’90. “We have been in many close games this year and have been on the wrong end three times. I told the men that we don’t want to define ourselves as a program that gets close – we’ve got to make it happen.”
The Bears got on the board first when attacker Dan O’Brien ’12 ripped a shot past the Penn goalie. But the Quakers responded with three unanswered goals to take a 3-1 lead, and a goal from Nick Piroli ’15 was offset by two more Penn goals to put Penn up 5-2 by the end of the quarter.
But the Bears slowly clawed their way back into the game, as two goals from the team’s leading scorer Sam Hurster ’14 sandwiched a Roger Ferguson ’13 goal to bring the teams level at 5-5 going into halftime.
“We dropped down 5-2, but then we won some faceoffs,” Tiffany said. “I think the score over the next two quarters really had to do a lot with Tommy Capone (’14) stepping up and winning some faceoffs.”
Penn opened the scoring in the second half, but a goal from Bears co-captain Parker Brown ’12 kept the game tight at 6-6 seven minutes into the quarter. Brown’s goal set the Bears off on a small scoring streak, as Piroli and O’Brien each scored their second goals over the next minute and a half. The Quakers managed one more goal before the quarter’s end, but a strike from Hurster brought the score to 9-7 in the Bears’ favor with a quarter to go. But the lead did not hold.
“We’re up 9-7 with 10 minutes, and Penn just exploded for three goals,” Tiffany said. “All of a sudden, we were down one.”
The first of these Quaker goals came seven minutes into the fourth quarter, and three minutes later, Bruno was down 10-9.
But the Bears kept fighting, and clutch play from the two captains helped steal the win. Parker Brown scored his second of the game with three minutes remaining to level the score at 10.
“Our two captains put the team on their shoulders and made huge plays in the last four minutes of the game,” Tiffany said.
Bruno controlled possession for the rest of regulation leading up to Schlesinger’s last minute heroics. After receiving the ball, Schlesinger wrapped around the left side of the goal and fired home the game-winner from a tough angle.
”We finally pulled out a close game,” Tiffany said. “Losing by one to Harvard, losing by one to Duke, losing by one to Bryant – in all those games we had a shot to tie it or win it, so this is certainly rewarding.”
Tiffany noted the atmosphere of an Ivy match-up under the lights at Penn’s historic Franklin Field. “The game certainly matched the splendor of the stadium,” he said.
The Bears will be back under the lights Friday, but this time at home, when they face Yale (5-4, 2-2) at Stevenson Field at 7 p.m.
“We know we’ve got a very talented team coming to Brown Friday night,” Tiffany said. “The biggest thing for us is defending our own turf. We’re winless at home. We’ve got a great fan base, and they deserve better. We better step up and show them Friday night against a very good Yale team.”