January 16, 2014

#LMRanks: No. 17 Penn Quakers (MD1)

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive | College Preview 2014

Zack Losco is a true two-way midfielder who scored 20 goals a season ago. He can help spark transition for a Penn offense that needs to score a couple more goals per game. (Kevin P. Tucker)

Previous: No. 18 Cornell Big Red | Next: No. 16 Lehigh Mountain Hawks

Vitals

2013 Record: 8-5 (3-3 Ivy)
Coach: Mike Murphy (5th year)
Record at Penn: 24-30

Power Ratings (scale of 1-5)

Offense: 3
Defense:
4
Goaltending:
5
Faceoff: 4

Top Returner

D Maxx Meyer (Sr.)
Meyer is a aggressive takeaway threat, posting 36 ground balls and 20 caused turnovers a season ago. Honorable mention here to goalie Brian Feeney, who ranked second nationally in goals against average (7.29) and ninth in save percentage (58.9).

X-Factor

M Zack Losco (Sr.)
If Penn is going to challenge for the Ivy title or an NCAA at-large berth, its offense needs to produce more to go with a defense that was the nations best last season. Losco, a two-way midfielder, along with junior attackman Isaac Bock, are a pair of returning 20-goal scorers.

NCAA Tournament Trend

2009 DNQ
2010 DNQ
2011 First Round
2012 DNQ
2013 DNQ

What's New?

Two new non-conference opponents. Penn ends the season with Towson on April 22 and St. John's on April 25. The Tigers and Red Storm replace Lehigh and Bellarmine. Strength of schedule difference seems to be a wash. St. John's could finish where Lehigh did last season and Towson could have a season similar to that of Bellarmine in 2013. The key will be the Ivy League.

Telling Number

7.38
Goals allowed per game last season. The Quakers allowed more than 10 goals only once — a 15-12 defeat at Denver early in the season — but still lost five games. It wasn't because of their defense. In the four other losses besides Denver, Penn scored 5, 6, 7 and 6 goals against, in order, Cornell, Yale, Harvard and Yale again the Ivy League tournament semifinals. With key parts of the defense and faceoff units back, the offense needs to improve if Penn will take a step forward.

Enemy Lines

What rival coaches say
"Led the nation in overall defense in 2013. Offense ran through [Tim] Schwalje who graduated. Attack play will determine the Quakers season... Ready to take the next step?... Depth on both sides of the ball for an Ivy, well-coached... This team has plenty of talented players to build on and registered some big wins last year against Duke and Lehigh... On offense, Bock and Losco are a good place to start with plenty of other solid pieces around them... Defensively they return a lot and Feeney is the best goalie in the Ivy League, which should help them turn a couple potential losses into some wins... Have a solid defense. Can they ramp things up on offense?... One of the best teams to not make the NCAA tournament last year. Wins over Duke, Princeton and Lehigh usually equals bonus lacrosse in May... The defense last year was suffocating. Feeney is one of the best goalies in the nation... Twin brother Danny Feeney established himself as one of the stronger faceoff men... Mike Murphy did well adapting his team to the new rules, employing Zack Losco and Drew Belinsky as true two-way midfielders that created a great deal of transition opportunities and matchup issues for their opponents."

2013 Recap

In a Nutshell: Penn got what it got done with defense. The Quakers finished 8-5, a year after going 3-10. They opened the season by scoring 14 goals against eventual champion Duke and got wins over St. Joseph's, Lehigh, Villanova, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth and Bellarmine. But they couldn't quite get ahead in the Ivy League, going 3-3 in the league and losing to Yale twice, Harvard and Cornell. One of the Yale losses and the loss to the Crimson were in overtime.

High Point: An 11-10 win over a top-10 Princeton team on March 16. The season-opening win against Duke was great, too, but many teams have gotten the better of the Blue Devils in the early parts of recent seasons.

Low Point: An 8-7 overtime loss to Harvard on April 13. It was the Crimson's sixth and final, and biggest win of the season.

2014 Preview

Best Case: After a fall ball season where offense was the emphasis, Penn improves its goals per game average and shooting percentage, which was 24 percent last year. Belinksy and Losco continue their two-way excellence and help create a handful of quality transition scoring chances per game and the Quakers are a threat to go on mini-scoring runs against most opponents. Sophomore Nick Doktor emerges as a quarterback, replacing the graduated Schwalje. With solid faceoff play, goalie and defense already in place, Penn's neck-and-neck(s) with Princeton and Yale for the Ivy League title.

Worst Case: Kind of the season Penn had last year, a quality team but just not enough quality wins to make the NCAA tournament. Some progress is made on the offensive end, but the Ivy League is once again too tough.

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.


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