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#7 Hoos travel to #20 Penn for big weekend tilt

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Virginia faces their second ranked opponent in first four games.

Zed Williams leads Virginia in points and assists so far this season.
Inside Lacrosse Photo: Jaclyn Borowski

The Virginia men’s lacrosse team has gotten off to a fast start in 2017 with three straight wins over #6 Loyola, Drexel, and Siena. The Hoos average a blistering 18 goals per game (good for third in the NCAA early in the season), but are giving up 14 goals per game on the defensive end. This Saturday, Virginia travels to #20 Penn for their second ranked matchup of the season to take on a young but dangerous Quaker team. Here’s what to expect Saturday.

From Virginia

Zed Williams is at the helm of Virginia’s attack, leading the team in assists (10) and points (17). He had four goals and two assists in Virginia’s 20-14 win over Siena on Tuesday, and boy were some of them doozies.

Mike D’Amario (10 goals) leads the Cavaliers in goals this season, but with five players with at least five goals and another eight having at least one goal, the Hoos do not lack for options on the offense. Ryan Lukacovic (five goals, three assists), an attackman-turned-midfielder, has proven to be a matchup issue for opponents, and midfielders Dox Aitken (seven goals, two assists) and Ryan Conrad (four goals, two assists) are more than capable.

Defensively, Virginia needs to tighten it up. New head coach Lars Tiffany has changed the schemes on the defensive end, wanting players to push out further on the ball and play a more disruptive, proactive style. Fifth year Tanner Scales anchors the defense and has 11 groundballs, six caused turnovers, no penalties, and just one turnover on the season. Scott Hooper leads the Hoos with eight caused turnovers and first year Jared Conners has 16 groundballs on the season (second on the team only to Williams’s 17).

In goal, Will Railey rebounded against Siena with 13 saves after a rough four save, one half outing against Drexel. Expect him to get the start again, but Tiffany isn’t afraid to go to Griffin Thompson in the second half if needed.

The Jason Murphy-Luke Brugel duo at the faceoff X has been pretty solid to start the season. Murphy takes the majority of faceoffs for the Hoos and is winning 53.4% of his attempts while Brugel has impressed, winning 63.6% of his faceoffs.

Just like every game for Virginia this season, possessions will be crucial as the defense hasn’t shored up their issues and Railey hasn’t shown the ability to stand on his head yet in cage. If the Hoos can dominate at the X (and on the wings), they should be able to get a comfortable lead.

From Penn

Like all the Ivy League teams, Penn has only played one game so far this season. The Quakers opened 2017 with a 10-5 drubbing of St. Joeeph’s. Penn led 7-1 at the half and cruised to the win. The Quakers boast a lot of young talent on the offensive end, building off of last season’s 8-7 record.

The Quakers lost their main points and assist man, Nick Doktor, from last season, but return their top two goal scorers in sophomore Simon Mathias (28 goals) and junior Reilly Hupfeldt (25 goals). Mathias is a capable assist guy, dishing out 11 last year. In their opener, sophomore Alex Roesner led the way for Penn with three goals.

Defensively, you’ll most likely see a trio of seniors in Kevin McDonough, Eric Persky, and Kevin Gayhardt down low. They have the unenviable task of trying to slow down the Virginia attack and picking which Wahoos they want to mark with their short-stick defenders. Both Persky and Gayhardt scored goals for the Quakers last season, so the Hoos will have to watch for that on transition clear opportunities.

In goal, Penn has Reed Junkin. Junkin, a sophomore, had 15 saves in their first outing this season and saved 54% of shots faced last season. At the faceoff X, the Quakers return junior Chris Santangelo. Santangelo took all 17 faceoffs for Penn against St. Joseph’s, winning eight, which is slightly below his mark of 51% last season. He also had four faceoff violations in the season opener, three of which came in the fourth quarter (leading to a :30 penalty).

This is Virginia’s first trip to Franklin Field, despite it being the ninth matchup between the two teams. The game starts at 1pm and will be broadcast on ESPN3.