By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Franklin Field will be the place to be for local lacrosse fans on Sunday as Penn hosts neighbor Drexel in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Click below to listen to the interview with Mike Murphy…
Penn won the Ivy League title and they are in the tournament for the first time since 2011. They will be hosting an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1988. Drexel won the CAA title and this will be the program’s first-ever appearance in the tournament.
It’s safe to say the buzz about the next door neighbors meeting in the first round has been palpable since it was announced.
“Our guys were really excited,” Penn head coach Mike Murphy tells KYW Newsradio. “They know some of those kids. Obviously, played with them in high school, and against them in high school and we scrimmage them every year. Brian Voelker and I are good friends, so it was neat.”
“In some ways we were a little bit surprised by it, but in some ways I kind of saw the writing on the wall and knew (the match-up with Penn) it was coming,” Drexel head coach Brian Voelker tells KYW Newsradio. “When you get into the NCAA Tournament, you know you’re going to play a really good team. Penn’s a really good team. Coach Murph’s done a great job over there, they’ve got a really good squad. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us on Sunday, but we’re excited to play, we’re excited to be here in West Philadelphia, playing some West Philly ball. Showing the people of Philadelphia what lacrosse in this area is like.”
Penn brings an 11-3 record and an eight-game winning streak into the tournament. The Quakers also hold a 21-8 advantage in the series with Drexel.
“I expect it to be a physical, well-played, hard-fought battle,” Murphy says. “And for us the keys are going to be to defend well. Their offense is very good — we have to keep some of their top guys from getting good shots on the goal. If we can do that and we can compete at the face off X, they have a very good face-off guy as well, [then] I think that would bode well for us.”
Click below to listen to the interview with Brian Voelker…
Drexel is 12-4 on the season and Voelker talks about the keys to success from their perspective.
“Winning face-offs and their transition,” Voelker says. “They love to push the ball in transition from defense to offense and we have to slow that stuff down. If we can do that, we’ll be successful on Sunday.”
An added storyline for this game is the fact that before he came to Drexel, Voelker served as head coach at Penn.
“There’s still a bunch of coaches and people over there that I’m very friendly with,” Voelker says. “I’ve gotten a bunch of texts and emails from former players and alums that we’re really supportive of me when I was there. That’s definitely a little bit different. But once (the game) starts, all that kind of stuff goes out the window. (Coach Murphy) and I are very good friends. Our staffs are very friendly, we know each other really well. But once the game starts, it’s all about the kids, and the kids matching up and playing hard. You know, who’s going to score more goals than the other team.”
Penn and Drexel get underway at 3:00pm on Sunday afternoon. Winner of this game gets the winner of Denver and North Carolina in the quarterfinals.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.