March 8, 2014

Penn Rallies for Late Win over Villanova

by Justin Feil | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

The Quakers rallied for an unlikely victory, scoring the final five goals of the contest in a 12-11 win. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Drew Belinsky and the No. 10 Penn lacrosse team saw it could come back from an early deficit last week.

On Saturday, they found out they can rally late just as well.

"I think that just shows the resilience of our team," said Belinsky, a senior midfielder. "It shows that whole mentality that we're never out of the fight, and that there are leaders all over the team."

In the fourth quarter, Belinsky delivered an inspiring hit, scored two goals and assisted on the game-winner with 2:00 left by Joe McCallion as Penn scored the game's five goals for a 12-11 win at Villanova. It's the third straight win for Penn (3-1) since an opening-game loss to No. 3 Duke.

"A couple years ago, we didn't win these games as often as we do now," said Penn coach Mike Murphy. "It's only been twice, but I think we're a pretty resilient group."

Penn had trailed No. 11 Denver in the first quarter last week, 5-1, before coming back to win, 12-10. Villanova (1-3) led, 11-7, with 12:49 left in the game on a man-up goal from Kevin O'Neil.

"I didn't feel good, but I didn't feel bad," Murphy said. "We go through these scenarios all the time in practice. We put ourselves down two, three or four with a certain amount of time left and play a short game down multiple goals. All you can do is get a goal and get a stop. We did it 11 or 12 times."

Penn reeled off five straight goals beginning with an unassisted tally by Pat Berkery with 8:05 left. Belinsky followed with an unassisted man-up goal nearly two minutes later. Chris Hupfeldt brought Penn within a goal, and with 2:38 left Belinsky tied it on a feed from fellow senior midfielder Zack Losco, then fed McCallion for the winner.

"We're pretty tough, physically and mentally," Murphy said. "We're tough minded as much as anything else. I think that was clearly displayed today with our ability to not really lose our minds, not go away from the plan, just keep making plays."

Belinsky epitomizes the toughness of Penn. He came into the game with just three points and had connected on only 15 percent of his shots, but he willed in some of the biggest goals of his career.

"He is tough as hell, physically and mentally tough," Murphy said. "He hit a kid legally really hard and that gave us a little injection of energy when we were in the middle of our comeback. For him to have a couple goals was nice.

"In the midfield, for five or six minutes, we just kept putting Belinsky and Losco out there. Our assistants said, are you sure? I said, we're going to win this game with these guys."

Murphy is in his fifth season at Penn. Belinsky is part of a senior group that has bought into Murphy's program, and helped raise the standards for Penn.

In-Game Blog Replay

 

"We've been playing more guys," Belinsky said. "We have nine or 10 middies playing, five attackmen playing, five defensemen playing. We're always trying to be fresh, and hopefully we're fresher than the other team."

Penn had nine different goal scorers against Villanova. Belinsky, Nick Doktor and Berkery had two goals apiece. McCallion, Isaac Bock, Kevin Brown, Jeff Puckette, Hupfeldt and Austin Kreinz all scored a goal apiece. Losco and McCallion had two assists apiece, and Brian Feeney made 13 saves.

"It was really just our seniors," Murphy said. "It wasn't some sort of zone defense or gimmick offense. It was just our seniors stepping up and making plays."

They helped Penn overcome what was Villanova's best start to a game this season. Villanova twice held a four-goal lead in the game, double its largest lead of the season, but could not hold on for the win. They have lost once in triple overtime, won in overtime and lost by two goals to Delaware last week.

"This one will hurt for a day," said Villanova coach Mike Corrado. "Tomorrow's an off day. Then we come back Monday and it's time to move on to the next one. This one is a tough one to lose with a four-goal lead in the fourth quarter."

Villanova's Tim Mulrenan and Johnny Gallaway each enjoyed their first career hat tricks. O'Neil scored two goals and had two assists, and Eric Gartner had a goal and assist. Jack Curran and Austin Frederick had two assists apiece.

Villanova won every statistical battle, except on the scoreboard. They won more faceoffs, had more ground balls and caused more turnovers. They play at No. 1 Maryland on Friday.

"We're just not playing a full 60 minutes yet," Corrado said. "We're very young and inexperienced on offense, and I think that shows at times. We have stretches. We just have to work to keep getting better."

Mulrenan had all three of his goals in the first half consecutively as Villanova snapped a 2-2 tie while holding Penn scoreless for just over 15 minutes. Their 6-3 halftime lead was the largest the Wildcats had enjoyed in four games this season. A 7-4 faceoff advantage and causing nine Penn turnovers helped them establish the edge.

Penn scored four of the first five goals of the second half and tied the game, 7-7, on a goal from Doktor. The Quakers wouldn't score again in the quarter as goals from Kurtis Naslonski and the first of the season from long pole Chris Piccirilli gave Villanova a 9-7 lead going into the final quarter.

The Wildcats scored the first two goals of the fourth quarter and had held Penn scoreless for more than 14 minutes before Belinsky helped to trigger the rally. When Belinsky fed McCallion for the 12-11 edge, it was Penn's first lead since it was 2-1 eight minutes into the first quarter.

"I'm never going to have a chance to leave everything on the field again after this year," Belinsky said. "It's the way I'm going at it and the rest of the seniors are going at it, as well as the rest of the team. It's really helping us on this little win streak we're on."

Penn will take its three-game win streak back on the road to open Ivy League play at No. 12 Princeton next Saturday.

"Princeton, they're a very, very good team," Murphy said. "We have to clean some things up, particularly at the defensive end from today, to hold them down. They can score. They have a lot of weapons.

"Hopefully we can build on this, and play better in certain phases of the game and play better than we did today and see if we can start out in the Ivy League 1-0."


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