Don't be fooled by Pennsylvania's 8-5 record in 2013. The Quakers were, based on their production, expected to win around 72 percent of their games last season. Overtime regular season losses to Yale and Harvard ultimately took the shine off of what could have been a brilliant season from Mike Murphy's cats.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
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February 21: @Duke; March 1: Denver
The Quakers have been an odd conversation piece this offseason: Many think that Pennsylvania has the potential to crush some skulls in 2014, but there is also a faction that isn't impressed with the Quakers' 8-5 effort in 2013 and aren't quite sure what Penn is going to look like in the coming spring. Oddly, there isn't much of a grey area between the two schools of thought: You either believe the Quakers are a legitimate top 20 team or you think that Pennsylvania's lacrosse concern is merely a conspiracy theory. Regardless of Penn's actual reality, this much is clear: The Quakers get two huge opportunities in their first three games of 2014, facing the reigning national champion and the presumed frontrunner -- and a 2013 national semifinalist -- in the new-look Big East. Pennsylvania showed well against both teams last year -- the Quakers dropped the Devils in their opening effort and hung around with the Pioneers out in Denver -- and could use consistent efforts against both programs early in their 2014 campaign. These are the two biggest nonconference dates for Penn this coming year and seizing these opportunities could help shape the Quakers' pursuit for their 12th NCAA Tournament invitation.
March 15: @Princeton; March 22: Cornell; March 29: @Yale; April 5: Brown; April 12: Harvard; April 19: @Dartmouth
You can make a decent argument that this is the least stable that the Ivy League has been in a very long time. With that lack of stability comes depth in competitive balance, an odd fact for a conference that has pushed forward social classes not unlike those in which its graduates create and inhabit. This is both a positive and a negative for the Pennsylvania: On any given night the Quakers can reshape its league volition toward an automatic invitation to The Big Barbecue; of course, on any given night the Quakers can become part of another team's league volition toward Valhalla. There really isn't a preferred way to try and get through the Ivy League this season, but with Penn facing Princeton and Yale early in their conference effort (the two teams most prognosticators have tabbed as the league's best teams), the Quakers (1) have the chance to earn some important wins early and cement a position at the top of the conference table, or (2) have the chance to reset and make a final push against Brown, Harvard ,and Dartmouth. This is kind of like when your grandmother would drag you to the hairdresser with her when you were a kid: It could be worse, but at least you're getting McDonald's when it's all said and done.