Category Archives: Men's Lacrosse

A special day of lacrosse at PPL Park

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It’s certainly been an eventful start to the season for the Penn men’s lacrosse team.

The Quakers opened the year by beating 14th-ranked Duke, followed that up with a one-goal win over city rival Saint Joseph’s, flew all the way to Colorado to play Denver (who they lost to) and then beat another nationally ranked team in Lehigh.

And that was all before this past Saturday when Penn got the opportunity to play at PPL Park – the home of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union – in the second game of the inaugural Independence Classic tripleheader.

Even better: the Quakers enjoyed a dominant second half to beat Villanova in front of more than 5,000 fans who made the trip out to the state-of-the-art stadium on the Chester waterfront to watch high-quality college lacrosse.

From left to right, Losco, Doktor, Feeney and Murphy

From left to right, Losco, Doktor, Feeney and Murphy

I, too, went to PPL Park and covered Penn’s impressive win for CSNPhilly.com.  Check out my game story to see what head coach Mike Murphy, junior goalkeeper Brian Feeney, junior midfielder Zack Losco and freshman attack Nick Doktor had to say about the victory, the unique atmosphere and handling the nerves of playing in such a big stadium.

Also, here’s a link to a CSNPhilly.com photo gallery with some cool pictures from the event.

And below is a video I shot from the press box that shows Penn celebrating the victory, as well as the stunning backdrop of PPL Park.

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For Penn lacrosse programs, success breeds succees

Penn men’s lacrosse coach Mike Murphy knew it was possible for his team to ascend to the top of the Ivy League and become a national power.

For proof, he didn’t have to look very far. On the very same field his team plays on, the Penn women’s lacrosse team has been paving the path.

“Our sports are pretty different,” Murphy told the Gazette, “but what they really showed us is that you can be great here at Penn. You can be an Ivy League champion here and you can win at the highest level. It gave me a great deal of optimism and hope.”

Tonight, both teams begin play in their respective Ivy League tournaments with the women’s team gunning for their fifth straight league crown and the men’s squad entering the four-team field fresh off matching its highest regular-season finish since 1989.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Murphy said of the success of both programs. “They’re further ahead of us in the process. It would be neat to have both teams win Ivy championships in the same year and make a run in the NCAA playoffs.”

The Quaker women (11-4 overall, 6-1 Ivy League) are used to doing just that, as they’ve made four consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, which included three straight runs to the national semifinals from 2007-09. This year, the team earned the top seed in the second annual Ivy League tournament while remaining nationally ranked throughout the season. But Penn did see its 34-game Ivy League winning streak snapped by Princeton earlier in the season.

The Quakers will try to get their revenge when they host Princeton tonight at 7 p.m. in the semifinals of the league tourney. Should they win, they’d move on the league title game Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Franklin Field against either second-seeded Dartmouth or third-seeded Harvard.

Meanwhile, the Quaker men (8-5 overall, 4-2 Ivy League) travel to Ithaca to take on third-seeded Harvard at 5 p.m. Fourth-seeded Yale and top-seeded Cornell square off in the other semifinal with the winners playing in the title game at noon.

While the league is loaded this season and Penn is new to the postseason party, the Quakers have every reason to believe they can win an Ivy title and gain the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament field.

Penn’s schedule this season, after all, already included teams currently ranked second (Cornell), seventh (Duke), ninth (Virginia), 10th (Villanova), 11th (Bucknell), 12th (North Carolina), 17th (Harvard) and 20th (Yale) in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Poll. They went 4-4 in those games, including a season-opening win over the defending national champs, Duke.

“Guys worked harder and we got a lot of return investment on that first game,” Murphy said. “We built on that and got where we are now. It validated all the work we did in the fall and winter.”

For Murphy, the program’s turnaround from last place in the league last season to second place this season is not too surprising. The second-year head coach believed good things would happen if he built a cornerstone of defense, commitment and discipline. And like women’s coach Karin Brower Corbett has been able to achieve, he knew he’d be able to reel in big-time players – like starting freshman goalie Brian Feeney, for instance – by helping student-athletes realize great academic schools like Penn are the ticket to success since there are few lacrosse opportunities after college.

“I’ve heard [people are surprised] but nobody expressed it to me,” said Murphy, who came over to Penn over a successful tenure at Haverford. “A lot of people were talking in the offseason how competitive our league is, top to bottom. I’m sure eyebrows were raised but not completely.”

Some more eyebrows will be raised if Penn is able to win the Ivy League tournament. In the finals, the Quakers would likely need to get by the mighty Big Red, a team they lost to by just one goal, on the road, earlier in the season.

And so, Murphy is cautiously optimistic. He’s already proven turnarounds can happen quickly. What’s a couple more wins?

“We don’t have a whole lot of goals,” the Penn coach said. “We talk in pretty simple terms. But from the outset of the season, our primary goal was to win an Ivy championship. Now we’re here and we’ll try to see if we can do it.”

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Inside Man with Ted Rawlings: Vol. V

Inside Man is a report written by Penn junior Ted Rawlings that takes you inside the world of Penn athletics. In addition to being a goalie on the lacrosse team, Ted is also a member of the Penn sprint football team, a manager for the men’s basketball team and an announcer for the women’s basketball team. This week, in his final post, he pays tribute to the graduating men’s lacrosse players.

In the words of the great entertainer Billy Joel, “This is the time to remember, ’cause it will not last forever. These are the days to hold on to.”

And in the wake of the recent tragedies both on campus and within the tightly knit lacrosse community, those words hold even more value. It’s in these moments that, as an individual, you look around at the people you surround yourself with every day, and realize how fortunate you are to be associated with such great men and women. 

Last Monday marked the day of Commencement for the University of Pennsylvania class of 2010, which meant saying goodbye to those people. And many were my closest friends – not just on campus but in life. Of that group, I shared a lacrosse field and the majority of my last three years with 11 of them: Ryan Bailey, Chris Casey, Tommy Dodge, Chris Harms, Tom Jackson, Joe Kelly, Justin Lynch, Rob McMullen, Brendan Saxon, Todd Tewksbury and Mark Wright. I proudly call them brothers.

Ironically, in a profession of the written word, words can’t truly give justice to the mark this group has left during their four-year tenure at the University of Pennsylvania. However, I’ll muster together a feeble attempt.

Ryan Bailey: The biggest New York Yankees fan I’ve had the pleasure to converse with that is not actually from the city (or even the state). Perhaps it was our similarities – I’m a Cowboys fan from Philadelphia – that helped us get along so smoothly.

Chris Casey: The only person on the team who truly knew the misery of standing in front of shots fired from seven yards away by Al Kohart, Morgan Griff, and Kevin Reed, among others.  The best goalie I ever had the fortune to back up and share the field with. And though he may have been “200 years too late,” Dirt redefined what it means to be a pirate. Also, a phenomenal wingman.

Tommy Dodge: Probably the man most responsible for my shift in music preferences, as well as the toughest defensemen I’ve ever played with. And while his lacrosse abilities were strong, it will be even tougher to find a better dancer at a rave party. I am just happy to have recently discovered that he gets his moves from his old man. 

Chris Harms: The only New York Giants fan I can willingly stand. The nicest person you’ll ever meet and an undervalued lacrosse player during my first two years at Penn. Also, owns one of the most extensive and polished shoe collections in University City. And finally, his father hosts outstanding graduation parties.

Tom Jackson: TJ has been my right hand man defensively for three years.  If you ever run into him, ask him how it feels to accidentally hit a coach in the head with a lacrosse ball. An unbelievable and unrecognized leader though, who, for three years, was always there to pick up my spirits following a goal I gave up – which happened regularly.

Joe Kelly: He never ceased to amaze me with his lacrosse skills. General sports fans always seemed baffled at his talent despite his lack of the traditional athletic build; a true warrior and amazing captain. Also, he was a great corn-hole player and had solid dance skills, though his brother Pat still has his number.

Justin Lynch: If lacrosse wanted to steal the NBA’s slogan “Where Amazing Happens,” Justin Lynch would be one of the advertised players. A ridiculously dominant face-off middie who I actually prayed was on my scrimmage team every day. Moreover, just as Joe Kelly was, Justin was one of the best captains and overall leaders I have ever played for.  Also not to be dismissed are his construction and grilling skills – cooks a better burger than Bobby Flay.

Rob McMullen: I have been documented multiple times as labeling Rob McMullen the best attackman in the Ivy League. Now, perhaps the coaches of the league did not fully agree with me, but I stand by my assertion. McMullen was a great finisher who had a breakout year in 2010. I’m no offensive genius, but it’s going to be difficult to find a man-up replacement. For me personally, it’s also going to be tough to find a more dominating corn-hole teammate than Rob.

Brendan Saxon: Sax is the most undervalued defenseman in the Ivy League. We’ll just blame that on his straight-laced personality. Like Harms, Brendan is one of the nicest people I’ve ever been around. After having the luck of being his roommate multiple times this season, I also discovered Saxon’s unique ability to captivate an audience through storytelling. The best thing about Saxon, however, has to be his secret enthusiasm for cheesesteaks. 

Todd Tewksbury: I guess since I am not an Eagles fan, that makes Todd the team’s true ultimate Philadelphia sports aficionado. Tewks, like Sax and Harms, is just a genuinely nice person – which shouldn’t come as a surprise given that the three lived together. He was a great personality to have on the sidelines during the game and that presence will be missed. Tewks, however, has an even greater skill: building corn-hole tables. Credit him for the team’s obsession with the backyard sport. 

Mark Wright: Mark “Marky Mark” Wright was the left hand man (so to speak), alongside me and TJ for the backup defense, while quite literally being my left hand man on the sidelines. Yes, he was the man who stood to my left during games and shared my obsessive compulsion for sideline etiquette. We both figured if we can’t do our part on the field, we might as well be a service on the sideline. And his invaluable non-lacrosse related skill: technology. Coach Doc is forever in debt.

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Next year, it’s going to be difficult running 300-yard shuttles without Joe and Justin pushing us to make our times. It’s going to be rough standing in front of 10-yard shots from the wing without Chris there to joke about it afterward. And it’s going to be tough playing man-down defense without TJ, Mark and Tewks. Talking football without Harms and Bailey and cheesesteaks without Dodge and Saxon won’t be the same, nor will joking about Philadelphia without Rob. But I still wish them all the best of luck, knowing that in these coming days, I won’t be saying goodbye, but rather, “See you later.”  For “we’ve been through a lifetime and the aftermath,” and so inevitably, this is the time we’ll turn back to, and when we all do, we’ll have to laugh.

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Inside Man with Ted Rawlings: Vol. IV

Inside Man is a regular report written by Penn junior Ted Rawlings that takes you inside the world of Penn athletics. In addition to being a goalie on the lacrosse team, Ted is also a member of the Penn sprint football team, a manager for the men’s basketball team and an announcer for the women’s basketball team. This week, he dissects where the Penn lacrosse team stands today and how the Quakers found themselves in that position.

So much for having found the secret formula to winning. After all of that mumbo jumbo about the powers of techno music, we’ve hit a bit of a rough patch, dropping our last five games, the last two taking place at Franklin Field. 

And, apparently our record (4-7) has been disappointing enough to the rest of Penn to draw criticisms from students. “You guys are the worst men’s team at Penn this year,” was the most recent dagger thrown.

Though the year has been jerkier than a 16-year-old driving a car for the first time, there’s some information that needs to be thrown around before critics fire ammunition at will. 

After a 4-2 start, we’ve dropped three consecutive games to top 10 teams: at fourth-ranked Maryland, at sixth-ranked Princeton and at home to No. 10 Cornell. Sure, that only meant easier tasks – a game at 16th-ranked Yale, followed by a home contest against 19th-ranked Brown. Oh, and all of those followed games at the beginning of the year at No. 5 Duke and No. 17 Lafayette. 

No, these aren’t excuses. They are merely facts for the detractors to digest.

Some of those losses were tougher than others, especially a heartbreaking fourth quarter collapse at Princeton. All, though, are equally bitter.

But, somewhere, amidst all of these recent woes, are four strong performances – performances much more indicative of the team we’ve become through this red light/ green light season of ours.

A win at Denver over legendary lacrosse coach Bill Tierney was a benchmark accomplishment for the season, being our first win.  But the best and most enjoyable wins come at home, in front of friends and family on Franklin Field.  

Sophie Ellis Bexter’s symphony sounded like a Grammy winning masterpiece following the win against city rival Villanova. After receiving a 14-7 drubbing on the Main Line last year, revenge was a top priority for the season. And in this case, it was certainly a dish served cold. In monsoon weather that usually has coastal residents fleeing the beaches and cuddling indoors, we were in our best form. 

After trailing for a majority of the contest, junior attack Corey Winkoff and senior attack Rob McMullen score two goals within thirteen seconds to put us over the top and extend a winning streak to four.

Unfortunately, we’ve yet to initiate a second streak and it seems like forever since I’ve heard Murder on the Dance Floor. 

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Inside Man with Ted Rawlings: Vol. III

Inside Man is a regular report written by Penn junior Ted Rawlings that takes you inside the world of Penn athletics. In addition to being a goalie on the lacrosse team, Ted is also a member of the Penn sprint football team, a manager for the men’s basketball team and an announcer for the women’s basketball team. This week, he discusses the secret importance of choosing a pregame soundtrack — and confuses the clearly non-hip editor of this blog in the process.

Last May, ten lacrosse seniors graduated from Penn – and with their graduation came the passing of the torch. New season. New leaders. New pregame music.

Attributed reasons for a new 80-minute mix included: a need to modernize out-of-date Ludacris songs, an attempt to improve on a 6-7 record, and mostly a desire to more closely resemble a lacrosse team.

Yes, football has its mixture of classic rock and hip-hop – ranging from Guns N’ Roses to Kanye West. But lacrosse doesn’t seem to share football’s strong desire to keep Paradise City relevant for another thirty years.

Basketball has its mixture of 1994 rap and 2010 rap – featuring almost exclusively Biggie, Tupac, Jay-Z and Lil’ Wayne.  And though lacrosse players seem to enjoy the rap lyrics, some tend to feel the original beats don’t fully allow them to “bro out.” 

So, lacrosse’s mixture is more of, well, mixes – featuring Taylor Swift lyrics mashed together with techno beats, KiD CuDi lyrics mashed together with techno beats. Pretty much anything was mashed together with techno beats, even the opera song Por Ti Volare.

Rather than preserve AC/DC, lacrosse – or at least Quaker lacrosse – takes pride in keeping Christian Luke in business by playing his remix of Use Somebody on repeat.

So, when senior defenseman Tommy Dodge finally played Escape Me by the heralded DJ Tiesto just an hour before the game at Lafayette, the locker room finally settled in and began feeling prepared for battle – or at least dancing?

“That’s what they are,” Dodge said jokingly, or maybe seriously. “Lacrosse games are actually raves.”

DJ Tiesto doing his part to help Penn

The fact remains, every little thing matters when you’re trying to earn a win, including the music. Now, after having ditched Akon for Aoki remixes, perhaps it’s no coincidence that we’re 2-0 at home on the year. 

Of course, a solid pregame playlist needs balance. Sprinkled throughout the electronic remixed versions of teenaged pop star’s music are original versions of other teenaged pop star’s music. Soulja Boy’s All The Way Turnt Up even cracked the top 3 on the playlist. And personally, a mix cannot be deemed phenomenal without the inclusion of an 80’s track – in our case, Baltimora’s Tarzan Boy.

Yes, it is a great feeling to know when you walk out of the locker room, a perfectly compiled list of 17 songs will blast from the sound system. However, there is an even better, unmatched feeling – piling into the locker room in celebration after a hardfought win on the Franklin Field turf, hearing Sophie Ellis Bexter’s Murder on the Dance Floor and anticipating the next rave later that night. 

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Inside Man with Ted Rawlings: Vol. II

Inside Man is a regular report written by Penn junior Ted Rawlings that takes you inside the world of Penn athletics. In addition to being a goalie on the lacrosse team, Ted is also a member of the Penn sprint football team, a manager for the men’s basketball team and an announcer for the women’s basketball team. This week, he discusses the hidden pleasure of the perfect hotel room – as well as an impressive performance in a season-opening loss at Duke.

About halfway into a seven-hour bus trip – after waking up from a sleep-induced coma caused by Dane Cook’s laugh-out-loud knee slapper Good Luck Chuck and after the stomach’s inevitable call for antacid relief immediately following a Burger King sourdough bacon cheeseburger – you begin to form questions.

  • Why did this bus design leg room for a 10-year-old?
  • What’s on the dinner menu?
  • What are the hotel shower heads like?
  • What 2-star movie is on TNT tonight at 10 p.m.?
  • Are the pillows in the hotel designed for side-sleepers or back-sleepers?
  • Is it improper etiquette for a 21-year-old to request chocolate milk at breakfast in the morning?

The Washington Duke Inn – “Destination Duke” –  answered most of these questions with one cliché: it really is about the finer things in life. Though the hotel clerk was unable to explain the reasoning behind the tour bus’ inadequate leg space, her hotel was phenomenal.

The Washington Duke Inn warmly welcomed Ted to North Carolina

The bathroom alone won me over. Honestly, there’s nothing like opening the door to room 504, dropping the bags by the queen-size beds, and walking into a bathroom that has its toilet paper delicately taped down with a circular sticker of the hotel’s emblem. Or a six-foot towel that is miraculously dry even after two uses. And a shower head with multiple settings that can be adjusted to your liking. There must be a money-back guarantee that it will triple your shower time – which can’t be good for the hotel’s monthly water bill, especially in such strenuous economic times.

The electric bill surely runs at a premium, too. Comfortable chairs and convenient desk lamps provided the opportunity to stay up all night and finish an eight-page paper due on Monday evening about seduction in early American literature. Fortunately for the hotel, the bed, flat screen TV and TNT’s showing of Michael Irvin’s breakthrough acting role in The Longest Yard put me to sleep after just one incomplete run-on sentence – that and the dreaded 8:15 a.m. phone alarm for a 9 a.m. walk-through.

When I stepped outside the following morning, I could have mistaken the cold air of Durham for Philadelphia. But, after the waitress brought me a stirred-in Hershey’s syrup chocolate milk, I was absolutely satisfied – even if the pre-game beverage raised eyebrows at the coaches table adjacent to mine.

As for the purpose of our business trip – a season opener against the eighth-ranked Duke Blue Devils – we played a hard-fought game. The game was tied at 11 with just under five minutes to play before Duke erupted and pulled away, winning 16-11. But it’s safe to say that our performance was the “chocolate milk order” in lacrosse that weekend.

And though I won’t speak for others, I will attribute my performance – one of yelling and fist pumping on the sidelines in regular celebration and approval of our team’s success – to the “quiet and elegant” accommodations of “The Inn.”

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Inside Man … With Ted Rawlings

Want to know all about Penn athletics from the inside? Penn lacrosse goalie Ted Rawlings is here to give you a look, writing a feature called “Inside Man” that will appear regularly in this blog. To get things started, Ted describes the joys of an early-morning wake-up call, a snowy trip down south and scrimmages against some of the nation’s premier teams:

There’s nothing quite like celebrating the Penn basketball team’s upset win over nationally ranked Cornell with the incessant beep of an alarm clock at 5:45 in the morning. Nothing beats a night on the town like a rushed five-minute shower before even the sun has started its day. And what could be better than a Tastykake coffee cake from Wawa for breakfast?

But this past Saturday, all of that was an appropriate manner to celebrate for myself and 42 other student-athletes. As varsity lacrosse players first and basketball fans second, we were more excited to scrimmage at Charlottesville against Virginia (ranked third in the nation) and Georgetown (13th in the nation) than to throw back drinks in tribute to the “Upset of the Season” in college basketball.

And if that didn’t already have our juices flowing, the 9:30 a.m. Burger King French toast sticks or Arby’s roast beef sandwich may have helped – at least to get something moving. If all else failed, there was the 10 a.m. bus screening of Law Abiding Citizen (three days before its scheduled DVD release date) – for anyone who could manage to keep his eyes open.  

For those playing in the competitions, obviously game responsibilities kept their minds preoccupied. But for players like me who would be watching from the sideline – well, I was equally enthusiastic for some warm weather, or at least the sight of green grass. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm went unfulfilled. Snow banks lined the turf fields of Virginia’s campus and strong winds flew into our faces as we played five sessions between the two contests. The sun-baked Virginia I hoped I was visiting had an all-too-familiar Philadelphia feel. 

The strong performance I hoped for, though, was the one fulfillment of the trip as we beat Georgetown, 5-3, in three quarters before barely losing to UVA, 4-3, in two quarters. Above all else, that’s what made that 5:45 a.m. alarm clock buzz – which for me was actually a Bruce Springsteen song that I had since forgotten about – worth it. 

It probably also explains why the Jimmy John’s bacon and turkey hoagie tasted so delicious and why the window sufficed as a suitable pillow on the five-hour journey home.

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