PHILADELPHIA - It has been a frustrating season for the Penn men's lacrosse team, perhaps most of all for the five seniors on the roster. After a 2011 season that saw the Quakers finish second in the Ivy League and make the NCAA Championship field, they probably thought this season would be a coronation of what they started.
That might have been what made Saturday's 13-11 win over Harvard feel that much more special. It was the Quakers' first in Ivy play in five games. It was the first overall in seven contests. On Senior Day, that felt like enough.
With so many close losses this season -- and there was a moment at the end of the third that had to make the Quaker faithful wonder which way this game would go -- what was probably most pleasing to Head Coach Mike Murphy and his staff was seeing the poise the Quakers showed down the stretch. And when Ryan Parietti scored with 30 seconds left off a Zack Losco feed, amid a scrambling Harvard defense, everyone on the Penn bench was able to breathe that wonderful sigh of relief.
Penn (2-8, 1-4) got on the board first on Saturday, as Tim Schwalje finished a feed from John Conneely less than two minutes into the contest. However, Harvard (6-6, 2-2) responded with the next four goals, all of them coming in a span of 4:25. Jeff Cohen got the run started, scoring unassisted and then finished a Terry White feed to make it 2-1 Crimson. Daniel Eipp then scored unassisted, before Kevin Vaughan finished a Cohen feed in a man-up situation.
Penn regained some momentum, as Losco scored off a McCallion feed from the ensuing faceoff and then Conneely hit his first of the day. Will Walker scored late in the period, and it was 5-3 Harvard after one.
Things slowed down in the second period, as Penn scored the only two goals of the stanza. Losco had the first, unassisted, and then nearly 10 minutes went by before Alek Ferro finished a Losco feed in transition. Appropriately, it was the first collegiate goal for the senior defensive midfielder in his final home game and it tied the score at 5-5. That's how it went to break.
The game returned to its frenetic pace in the third. Jack Breit scored just 25 seconds in, setting the tone, before Anthony Adler tied it back up less than a minute later. Less than a minute after that, Andrew Pataki pushed Harvard back in front, but less than two minutes later Conneely finished a Schwalje feed to tie the score at 7-7. Freshman Isaac Bock then scored his first goal as a Penn player and that put the Quakers in front, 8-7.
Schwalje doubled the lead just 1:13 after Bock's goal, and then more than three minutes passed before Conneely netted his second, unassisted, to push Penn to a 10-7 advantage.
Harvard got two of those goals back in the final five minutes, and the second was a killer. The first came from Jack Walker with 4:51 left. The second came when Harvard desperately cleared the ball late in the period. The ball seemed to be bouncing harmlessly to a Penn defender, but he missed the catch and instead it went into Cohen's stick. He turned and rifled a shot past Penn goalie Brian Feeney. The time on the clock? One second.
Penn held it together, but it was nearly seven minutes before the Quakers could advance their lead beyond a goal. However, Adler gave the Red and Blue some room with an unassisted goal, and then two minutes later he made it 12-9 with a finish of a Parietti pass.
Harvard got within 12-10 with 2:51 left on a Walker shot, and the Crimson pressed to force enough Penn turnovers to keep the home fans nervous. However, in the waning seconds Losco got the ball near midfield, rolled to the left side, then cut past a Harvard defender into the box. With the Crimson scrambling to recover, he fed Parietti in front for the easy score and that sealed it. Harvard's Vaughan had one final goal.
Conneely finished the game with three goals and three assists for six points, a high by a Penn player this season. Adler also had a hat trick, all of the goals coming after halftime, while Losco had two goals and two assists. For Harvard, Cohen had three goals and two assists while Vaughan had three points and Walker scored twice.
After a tough first period, Feeney came on strong to finish with 13 saves (12 in the final 45 minutes). At the other end, Jake Gambitsky had eight for the Crimson.
Penn returns to action with a non-conference game at Saint Joseph's on Tuesday. The Quakers and the Hawks will face off at 7 p.m. on Finnesey Field.