May 4, 2014

Defense, Losco Lead Penn Past Harvard in Ivy Final

by Arielle Aronson | | Twitter

In-Game Blog Replay


When the top-seeded Harvard University men's lacrosse team jumped out to a 4-0 lead just over 10 minutes into the Ivy League Tournament Final, it seemed like the third-seeded University of Pennsylvania was in for a long day. But the Quakers (11-3) responded by scoring seven unanswered goals over the next 50 minutes of play to top the Crimson (10-6), 7-5, and capture their first Ivy League Championship in program history.

Penn senior midfielder Zack Losco was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after registering nine points on eight goals and one assist through two tournament games.

Losco, the only multi-goal scorer of the day on Sunday, chipped in three goals as part of the slow-but-steady Quaker comeback. The real star for Penn, however, was its defense, as Penn held Harvard off the board for a 44:58 stretch of play despite getting outshot by the Crimson, 37-29, in the game.

"Early on, we dug ourselves a bit of a hole, but then we started buckling down on defense," said Penn head coach Mike Murphy. "[Goalkeeper] Brian [Feeney] got some saves. We got two goals there before the end of the first quarter and then we managed to tie it into halftime.

"Over the course of that period, we started to get back to basics on defense and just get some stops through good defense and Brian making saves. I think that kind of turned the tide for us a little bit. We just built on that at the defensive end and chipped away a little bit on offense."

The Quakers started to chip away at the Crimson lead just 12 seconds after Harvard scored its fourth goal. Following Penn senior Danny Feeney's faceoff win, junior midfielder Joe McCallion connected with freshman attack Kevin Brown down low. Brown tucked a shot inside the post to beat Crimson goalie Jake Gambitsky for the first Quaker goal of the game.

The play was one of many instances on the day in which Penn benefited from its dominance in the faceoff circle. Danny Feeney went 11-for-15 overall on faceoffs and was a perfect 7-for-7 in the first quarter.

"[The faceoff wins were] huge," Losco said. "Harvard's offense is great, so keeping the ball away from them is key. The morale is up when Danny's winning and he's giving us that momentum. Especially for the offense, knowing that we're going to get the ball, knowing that we're going to get our touches, it just helps us get into a rhythm."

The Quakers scored twice in the first quarter and twice in the second quarter to tie the game at 4-4 entering halftime, but they were kept off the board in the third quarter and did not establish their first lead of the game until 1:12 into the fourth quarter, when sophomore attack Nick Doktor scored his 20th goal of the season and put Penn ahead, 5-4. The Quakers scored twice more in the fourth quarter before allowing the final Harvard goal with 4:41 left in the game to earn the 7-5 win.

Despite the poor outcome for the Crimson, Gambitsky said he was proud of his team's defense, which shut down Penn's offense for a 21:29 span in the middle of the game and created a great opportunity for the Harvard offense to regain the momentum it enjoyed in the first quarter. But the Harvard attack struggled with accuracy and execution in the final three frames, as 20 of its 37 shots on the day were fired wide or high and 11 of its 14 turnovers were committed in the final three quarters.

"We got away from some of the things that we usually do pretty well," said Harvard senior midfielder Peter Schwartz. "I think we got a little comfortable because we had success early. They had a good goalie in net. We didn't shoot the shots that we were planning on shooting. We just didn't execute."

Due to the loss, Harvard will have to wait until the NCAA selection show on Sunday night to learn whether it will earn an at-large spot in the national tournament. Penn secured an automatic bid by winning the league tournament.

"There's a number of variables that will play out here and I don't know all the details of RPI and strength of schedules," said Harvard head coach Chris Wojcik. "We're a great team. We hope we get a bid but the committee will decide that."

Matt Donovan, Cornell
Conrad Oberbeck, Yale
Brian Fischer, Harvard
Danny Feeney, Penn
Daniel Eipp, Harvard
Zack Losco, Penn
Devin Dwyer, Harvard
Nick Doktor, Penn
Brian Feeney, Penn
Peter Schwartz, Harvard

Most Outstanding Player: Zack Losco, Penn

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