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Comeback effort falls short as top-seeded men’s lax falters against No. 13 Penn in Ivy League tournament semifinal

Bears will host two-time defending champions UVA Saturday in first round of NCAA tournament

<p>The first half of the semifinals was nearly identical in scoring, Bears behind 6-0, to that of an April 9 game between Brown and Penn earlier in the season.</p><p>Courtesy of Brown Athletics via David Silverman</p>

The first half of the semifinals was nearly identical in scoring, Bears behind 6-0, to that of an April 9 game between Brown and Penn earlier in the season.

Courtesy of Brown Athletics via David Silverman

Brown hosted the Ivy League men’s lacrosse tournament this past weekend, with the Bears taking on Penn. The No. 13 Quakers (9-4, 3-3 Ivy League) defeated No. 5 Brown (10-5, 4-2) 14-9 to move on to the championship game of the tournament, in which Penn beat Yale (11-4, 5-3) 16-9 to clinch the Ivy League title.

At halftime, the game looked remarkably similar to a previous meeting of the two teams earlier in the season.

With just seconds left in the first half, midfielder Trevor Yeboah-Kodie ’23 scooped a ground ball off a faceoff, sprinted toward the Penn goal, jumped and fired a missile into the corner of the net to make it a 6-5 game. The goal was Brown’s fifth unanswered one and drew them within one point of the Quakers after a nightmare first quarter put the Bears behind 6-0 — a nearly identical first-half to that of the April 9 regular-season game between the two Ivy League heavyweights in Philadelphia.

In that game the Quakers jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first quarter. But a second-quarter Bruno onslaught — which included a Yeboah-Kodie goal off a faceoff that made it a 6-5 game — pulled the Bears back.

Brown completed the comeback that day, defeating the Quakers 12-10. The victory last month began a five-game win streak that delivered the Bears the No. 1 seed in the Ivy League — and hosting rights for the tournament.

But this time, sustaining the second quarter’s momentum was too tall an order. In the end, Brown fell to Penn by a final score of 14-9. 

“(I’m) proud of our team. They never quit,” Head Coach Mike Daly said. Penn “played a great game and our hats are off to them.”

Under the lights at Stevenson-Pincince Field, the Quakers jumped out to an electric start when midfielder Gabe Furey found the net through the legs of Brown goalie Connor Theriault ’24 off the opening faceoff.

After a wayward pass from midfielder Reed Moshyedi ’22 ended what would be the only Bruno possession for the first five minutes of the game, Penn quickly doubled their advantage. Penn attacker Dylan Gergar found himself wide open on the left side and fired a rocket into the top corner. Things got even worse for the Bears when Ivy League Player of the Year Sam Handley bullied his way through the Brown defense to get on the scoresheet and Gergar buried his second shot of the game just seconds after Handley’s score.

Just over four minutes into the game, with students still streaming into the packed bleachers, Brown was down 4-0.

Following a timeout, Brown was unlucky not to find the back of the net, with attacker Devon McLane ’23 and midfielder Jack Kelly ’24 just missing the cage with shots, and McLane and midfielder Ryan Aughavin ’22 both clanging the post in quick succession.

Penn added two more goals before the end of the quarter, while the three remaining Brown possessions ended in saves from Penn goalie Patrick Burkinshaw.

But the Bears seemed to flip a switch between quarters.

After Matthew Gunty ’23 won the opening faceoff, Aughavin received the ball near the restraining line of the attacking zone. He sprinted horizontally, attempting to find shooting space, and then rapidly fired a shot back across his body into the back of the net.

Gunty won the ensuing faceoff, which gave Brown possession, allowing McLane to get on the board, his first of the game. After losing five of seven faceoffs in the first quarter, Gunty won all six in the second.

“We won a few more faceoffs, we won a few more 50-50 ground balls and then the game (started) to go (our) way,” Daly said.

Both teams went scoreless for the next 10 minutes, with the Bruno defense eliminating the space it allowed Penn in the first quarter, forcing the Quakers to commit three consecutive turnovers.

With three minutes to play in the half, Kelly scored Brown’s third goal on a speedy bouncing shot and with just 15 seconds left, midfielder Griffin King ’23 unleashed a side-arm rip to draw the Bears within two.

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It was on the next faceoff that Yeboah-Kodie made his darting run toward goal, with his leaping laser finding the net with nine seconds left, sparking an eruption in the student sections. As the two teams departed for halftime, it seemed that Bruno had the momentum.

But halftime ultimately dampened the Bruno comeback that began in the second quarter.

In the third period, Penn’s attack seemed to regain the energy it had in the first quarter. Theriault was forced to make three saves in the span of 15 seconds, but eventually the Quakers broke through to get the first goal four minutes into the half.

The Brown offense quickly responded, with attacker Brian Antonelli ’22 scoring on a lightning-quick catch-and-release from a McLane pass to restore the one-goal deficit.

But 40 seconds later, Gergar scored on an underhanded rip to complete his hat trick. And after that, the Quakers never looked back, scoring three more unanswered goals to take an 11-6 lead.

Brown got one back before the end of the quarter, with McLane scoring on a man-advantage, but three skillful reaction saves from Burkinshaw — part of his 20 saves of the night — kept the Bears at arm’s length.

“He’s a great goalkeeper,” McLane said, adding that the Penn defenders also deserve credit. “Their defense gave him the shots that he wanted to see.”

Brown continued fighting in the fourth quarter, with McLane completing his hat trick after defender Silas Newsome ’22 forced a Penn turnover.

But a three-goal run from Penn, which began with Handley barreling his way through a helpless Brown defense, put the game out of reach for good. The contest was sealed by the play of Burkinshaw, who made eight saves in the fourth quarter alone.

“We make two or three more plays and I think we’re in a much different position,” McLane said.

Despite the loss, Brown earned the eighth seed in the NCAA tournament bracket announced Sunday night. They will host the two-time-defending national champion University of Virginia Cavaliers (11-3, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Stevenson-Pincince Field.

The Bears have a tense recent history on the field against the Cavaliers. In 2019, Virginia defeated Brown 14-13 in overtime as part of a national championship winning season. In 2020, just before the pandemic shuttered the season, the Bears picked up a 14-13 win of their own against the Cavaliers.

But for Theriault, the matchup against Virginia is just another game. “Week in and week out we play against the best teams in the country,” he said. “I’m more than excited to play them, but it’s more about how we play than about scouting them.”

McLane said that one of the keys to the game will be “doing what we do best, which is dominating the middle of the field, (making) hustle plays (and) diving for end lines. All the gritty plays in the game — those are where we excel and are able to turn games in our favor.”

McLane added that he’s particularly excited that Brown is hosting: “(I’m) pumped to have a great team coming up to Providence.”



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