Looking to continue its unbeaten start in Ivy League play, the No. 10 men’s lacrosse team came up just short in Saturday’s contest against Penn, losing 14-11. The Bears (8-2, 2-1 Ivy) went into halftime with a one-goal lead but were held to only three goals in the second half as the Quakers pulled ahead and never looked back. Penn (4-6, 1-3 Ivy) needed the win to keep its Ivy League playoff hopes alive, and its desperation might have been the difference-maker.
“We witnessed an opponent beat us at our own game,” said Head Coach Lars Tiffany ’90. “Penn was willing to run and gun with us, and they were better. If not for the strong play from both Jack Kelly (’16) and Penn’s goalie, (Jimmy) Sestilio, the score would have reflected the track meet that this game was.”
It looked like the Bears were in for an easy afternoon after taking a 3-0 lead less than five minutes into the contest, but that proved to be anything but the case. After the two teams traded goals, Penn fired back with a run of its own, and the game was tied at four heading into the second period.
At the start of the second quarter, Bruno seemed to find its way again when the nation’s leading scorer, Dylan Molloy ’17, scored his second goal of the day, but the Quakers would not go away. Penn never let the Bears get out to more than a two-goal lead, and when the halftime whistle blew, the Quakers found themselves trailing only 8-7.
By the time the third quarter began, it was clear that momentum had shifted in favor of the Quakers. Penn’s Nick Doktor scored just 30 seconds into the half, and though Bruno regained the lead shortly after, it was not long before Penn held its first lead of the day. The Quakers responded with two goals in a 13-second window and never trailed again.
Facing a 10-9 deficit, the Bears appeared to get back on track when Molloy sent a beautiful pass in to Kylor Bellistri ’16 for a goal, but that would be their last successful possession for a while. The Quakers scored the quarter’s final two goals and took a 12-10 lead going into the final period.
Penn got off to quick start once again in the fourth, scoring just 35 seconds into the period. Now in desperate need of a goal, the Bears and their typically high-powered offense went cold, failing to score again until the two-minute mark. At that point, Bruno had been held scoreless for over 22 minutes, sealing its fate.
Though the offense may have faltered down the stretch, Tiffany was quick to point out that the team’s attackers were certainly not the only ones to blame.
“Our defense did not step up against an athletic opponent,” he said. “We were beaten too often in our one-v-one match-ups, and we were equally unsuccessful in playing sound team defense. We need to be a tougher, stronger defensive unit.”
When asked about what caused the Bears’ second-half collapse, Henry Blynn ’16 and Tiffany both lauded the Quakers’ strong defensive play.
“I give credit to Penn’s goalie, (Sestilio), who stepped up for them in the second half and made a ton of saves,” Blynn said.
“The biggest difference from the first half to the second half was the play with the ground balls, which directly leads to extra possessions,” Tiffany added. “Penn was able to play more offense in the second half with better face-off play and their work with ground balls.”
But the Bears did not take the loss without learning something.
“We now know that when we play teams like Penn, who are fast-paced like us, that we need to be smarter with the ball and not turn it over,” Blynn said. “We need to improve our shooting on offense. That has been a weakness for us the past couple of games.”
The Bears will now get ready to take on No. 11 Yale (8-2, 2-2 Ivy) Saturday in another critical Ivy League matchup.