March 29, 2014

Penn Guts Out 6-5 Win Over Yale in Key Ivy Battle

by James Badas |

In-Game Blog Replay


NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The score resembled a baseball game. The weather was reminiscent of backyard football. The result? Well that was a much-needed lacrosse victory for No. 13 Penn.

The Quakers survived spring showers and a nearly 27-minute long scoreless drought to edge out a 6–5 victory over No. 11 Yale, and in the process, avoided an 0–3 start to the Ivy League campaign.

With the outcome, both Penn and Yale share identical records of 4–3 overall with 1–2 marks in conference play.

The story of the day was certainly the play of the goalkeepers: Brian Feeney for Penn and Eric Natale for Yale. The two combined for 24 saves and each held the opposition to season lows for goals scored.

Penn head coach Mike Murphy could not speak more highly of his goalie.

“[Feeney’s] probably been, week in and week out, our best player or one of our best players,” Murphy said. “He’s one of the most athletic people on our team and he’s just a spectacular kid.”

Feeney nearly shut out Yale for the final 20-plus minutes of the game, save for a Conrad Oberbeck wrap around with 1:16 left that kept Yale’s ever-so-faint chances alive.

Oberbeck ended the day with two goals, tacking on to his team-leading scoring output this season which now sits at 17 goals. It was the potential for an 18th that will remain on his mind.

Coming out of a timeout with 28 seconds left and possession of the ball, Penn carelessly turned it over and opened up the door for a final, last-ditch Yale attack.

After a timeout of their own, the Bulldogs entrusted Oberbeck to take the final shot. He returned to his comfort zone behind the net and sprinted around the right post once more, this time facing a bit more pressure that forced him away from the net. Oberbeck still managed to get off a fine effort but Feeney was not about to squander a great game between the pipes, and he calmly fended off the attempt.

Though Feeney’s play was critical to Penn cracking the win column in conference play, he still needed whatever offensive support the Quakers could muster.

Isaac Bock stepped up and provided the appropriate firepower, to the great pleasure of the umbrella-clad Penn supporters in attendance at Yale’s Reese Stadium.

Bock, who leads the team with 12 goals thus far this year, added not only the game-tying goal but the game-winner.

“It was great for [Bock] to step up like that,” Murphy said. “He sees large pieces of net where most players see small pieces.”

The Quakers were facing a 4–2 deficit that felt insurmountable considering the play of the Yale defense. Penn attackman Kevin Brown was then able to beat Natale with 3:31 to play in the quarter to spark the Quakers.

Bock soon thereafter converted his first strike that capped off a 26-second sequence that saw Penn draw even and the momentum had shifted entirely.

The Quakers clung onto that momentum and never relinquished control of the game as the wind was noticeably taken out of the Bulldogs’ sails.

Bock would come up huge yet again. With 9:24 remaining in the game and the score still even at four-apiece, Bock capitalized on a well-executed fast-break to put Penn ahead for good.

The defeat proved to be a deflating and disappointing one for Yale, especially considering how high emotions were running after a thrilling 16–15 victory last weekend against No. 12 Princeton.

Those 16 goals paired with the fact that Penn had scored in double digits four of its past five outings led many to believe that scoring would be aplenty. Instead, Mother Nature neutralized the anticipated up-and-down action.

Yale head coach Andy Shay was not ready to make excuses, however.

“It’s tough to play in these conditions but it’s not like only one team played in those conditions,” Shay said.

The loss certainly put a damper on an impressive defensive performance for the Bulldogs, who failed to score more than five goals for the first time since a 9–5 defeat to Harvard on April 30, 2011.

“The loss eclipses [the defensive effort]. It’s really tough to be happy about anything, really,” Shay said. “I’m proud of how hard the guys played but I’d like to win the game.”

The game was yet another example of a competitive and tumultuous Ivy League that should prove to be engaging to the very end.

Yale returns to action on Tuesday with a trip to Providence while Penn will have a week to recover before hosting Brown next Saturday.

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