The Cornell men’s lacrosse team knew that Saturday’s game against Penn would be an important one. During its season opening five-game slide, the team looked for bright spots to build on as it approached the heart of Ivy play.
Despite being blown out by Yale 17-8 to open league play, Cornell (1-6, 0-2 Ivy) came back the following week with a dominating performance to beat Colgate 15-6 for its first victory of the year. The team hoped the win would bring some momentum heading into its following matchup against Penn — the first of a three-game Ivy League stretch — but ultimately dropped the game in a close 10-9 decision.
“Really unfortunate that we let that one get away,” said head coach Matt Kerwick. “Credit to Penn, they stayed in it, they made the plays they needed to down the stretch, but we gave that one away, and that’s really unfortunate.”
The game was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team trailing by more than two goals during the entire game. Penn (4-3, 1-1) opened the scoring after the Quaker’s Tyler Dunn slung the ball from 10 yards away, getting the ball past senior goalie Christian Knight.
Freshman attacker Connor Fletcher answered by scoring back-to-back goals and giving the Red a 2-1 lead. Penn would then follow up with two goals of its own to head into the second quarter with a 3-2 lead.
Both teams would only score one goal each in the second period to give the Quakers a one-goal lead heading into halftime.
“I thought we started slow, but once we got up to speed we started making some plays,” Kerwick said. “I thought we battled all the way through the end of the game but some really poor turnovers led to opportunities for them.”
Penn extended its lead to 6-4 during the third period before Cornell went on a 5-1 run — beginning in the third period and continuing into the final period of play — to give the Red a 9-7 lead halfway through the fourth quarter. The run was dominated by Red freshmen, with Fletcher scoring three of the goals during the run, and classmate Jeff Teat finding the back of the net another time.
Cornell kept pushing the pace despite the lead, something that Kerwick took no regret in.
“When you’re up 9-7, we’re certainly not going to sit on it at that point,” he said. “There were eight minutes to go, so we wanted to run some good offense. I thought we had shot selections that weren’t good [but] we played some great defense, but unfortunately they made plays.”
However, Cornell was unable to keep its lead, as Penn finished the final eight minutes of the game on a 3-0 run to regain the one-goal lead. Cornell had a chance to tie the game within the final 30 seconds, but a shot by Clarke Petterson went high, sealing the 10-9 win for Penn.
“We got a really good look at the end, and we got to put it on cage,” Kerwick said. “You get an opportunity with 30 seconds to go from a really good spot, you shoot it over the top of the goal, we’ve just got to cash in on those plays.”
Despite the loss, Cornell had a strong performance on the stats sheet and led in every category, including a 35-29 advantage on shots, 32-26 advantage on ground balls, and 13-10 advantage in faceoffs won — a category which the Red has struggled with all season long.
Fletcher also recorded a career-high in goals and points, accounting for five goals and one assist. Teat and senior midfielder Ryan Matthews each recorded on two goals.
“It came down to the details,” Fletcher said. “We’ve been saying it all year. We’ve got to be playing with 100 percent focus for 60 minutes of the game, and we didn’t do that today.”
Kerwick added on, saying that constant focus is something the team will need to get a league victory.
“You have to play through every play, you have to stay focused through every play if you’re going to win in the Ivy League,” Kerwick said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t do that today when it counted down the stretch”
Cornell will continue searching for its first Ivy win when it closes out its three-game homestand on Saturday against Dartmouth. The game will be hosted on Kids Day, and all children will be admitted to the game for free, with an autograph session with the team following the game. Action will begin at 1 p.m.