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by Nick Fattori

After battling the number five ranked Princeton Tigers on the road last Tuesday and nearly pulling the upset, losing 14-11, the men’s lacrosse team went into the their game last Saturday against their rivals, the 18th ranked Penn Quakers, with some confidence.

However, after a good start they ended up dropping a hard fought match 13-9. With the loss, the ’Cats move to 1-4 on the season, while Penn improves to 4-1.

These two teams played the second of three games on the day down at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., home of the Philadelphia Union. The game was a part of the inaugural Independence Classic.

The first game pit Syracuse and St. John’s, with ’Cuse winning 13-11. The final game of the day was Lehigh and Penn State, with Lehigh eventually prevailing 12-10.

The ’Cats started out strong and did not back down early. They scored only 50 seconds into the game on an unassisted goal by senior midfielder Max Hart.

However, Penn responded with two quick goals coming only seven seconds apart from each other. The first goal came from junior midfielder Zack Losco and the other from freshman attacker Nick Doktor.

’Nova rebounded and refused to be pushed around.  They ran off the next three goals to put them up four to two.

Hart netted another goal during this spurt, as did senior attacker Jack Rice and junior defenseman Chris Piccirilli.

The two teams traded goals and after one quarter the ’Cats held a five to three lead.

The lead did not last for very long. Only 45 seconds into the second quarter, the Quakers had tied the game up. Losco scored another along with junior midfielder Drew Belinsky.

Following this, the two teams each exchanged mini-runs of their own before engaging in stalemate for the rest of the half.

’Nova again took a two-goal lead, 7-5, behind another Hart goal to go along with another one from Rice as well.

But, once again, Penn found a way to climb back into the game. They answered the two goals by Villanova with two of their own to knot the game back up at seven.

Following the goal which tied the game with 6:36 left in the second, both teams went scoreless for nearly 10 minutes, carrying over into the third quarter.

After the teams returned from the locker rooms to the field, both looked to try and end the scoreless drought and take control of the game.

Well, the ’Cats were the ones who struck first after halftime. This time, it was another goal by Rice to put ’Nova up by one, 8-7.

Penn, as they managed to do all night long, responded and took the lead again.

Sophomore attacker Isaac Bock scored two goals in a row for the Quakers, with Doktor adding another goal as well to put Penn up ten to eight.

But, like Villanova has done all season, they refused to quit and answered with a goal by sophomore midfielder Eric Gartner to make it 10 to nine going into the final quarter.

Two minutes into the final quarter, Bock of Penn scored again to put the Quakers up two.  For the next six minutes plus, both teams’ defenses took over and did not allow the other to score.

But, in the end, Penn was just too much to handle for the ’Cats.  Another goal for Belinsky with just under seven minutes to play, along with a goal from senior attacker Tim Schwalje with less than 90 seconds to play and iced the 13-9 win for the Quakers.

Although the ’Cats suffered another tough loss, much can be taken away from the game.

Hart had a career day, scoring four goals against the Quakers, thus doubling his season total to eight.

Rice also continued his tremendous start to the season by adding three more goals to the eight he had entering the game.

On the day, what plagued ’Nova the most was their inability to win face-offs, which eventually led to Penn getting more and better shot opportunities.

The Quakers ended up winning 17 of the 25 face-offs of the match and outshot the ’Cats by a margin of 46-35.

The season does not get any easier for ’Nova as they welcome the undefeated and top ranked Maryland Terrapins to Villanova Stadium this Saturday at 7 p.m.

Maryland has already beaten perennial powerhouses Duke and Loyola (MD) on the road this season. The win against Loyola also avenged a 9-3 setback in last year’s National Championship.

In last year’s contest, the Terps dominated the game and pulled out a 11-6 win over the ’Cats. Hopefully, it will be quite the opposite this season.

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