The clock is about to strike midnight on 2017, which means it’s that time to count down the best Penn games of the calendar year. Only this time, with the Quakers coming out on the losing end of some epic games, we’re changing it to best wins (we usually focused on the wins anyway).
As always, this was a tough list to compile that left out some great games and individual performances. But here is my choice for the most dramatic, memorable and important games won by Penn teams over the 12 months. For reference, here are the lists from last year, 2015, 2014 and 2013.
10) (tie) November 25: Men’s Basketball — Penn 101, Monmouth 96, 4OT
This wasn’t the prettiest game, or a hugely significant win. And many fans couldn’t even watch as power went out in Monmouth’s arena and ESPN lost its online feed. But not too many wins have been cooler than the Quakers surviving a bonkers four-overtime game. How rare are games that go this long? Penn had only played one other four-overtime game in program history — vs. Princeton in 1920, a year they won the national championship. And surpassing 100 points came just after Penn scored 99 points in a game and shortly before they eclipsed 100 at home to get fans free cheesesteaks for the first time in a decade. And it was the second time thee Quakers played a multi-overtime game this season. So yeah, it’s been a fun start to the 2017-18 campaign.
10) (tie) September 23: Football — Penn 65, Lehigh 47
Just like the hoops win over Monmouth, this was also not the most important or well-played win — but it was one for the record books. The 65 points the Quakers scored marked the program’s highest point total since a 66-0 win over Lafayette in 1946, and the 112 combined points were the most in a game in the 141-year history of Penn football.
Afterwards, some players spoke to the Gazette about the records that were set or nearly set, including the 615 yards of total offense, which was 13 shy of the program record. They used the word “crazy” a lot.
9) April 15: Baseball — Penn 5, Princeton 4 (9 innings); Penn 3, Princeton 1
The Penn baseball team won its first Gehrig Division title in 10 years thanks to a one-game playoff win over Columbia. But the Quakers wouldn’t have gotten there without this crucial sweep of the Tigers that vaulted them into first in the division. Tim Graul, the Ivy League’s batting champ, set the tone with a dramatic ninth-inning walk-off hit in the opener before Adam Bleday, a Houston Astros draft pick, twirled a complete-game gem in the second game of the doubleheader.
8) February 25: Women’s Squash — Penn 5, Trinity 4
Let’s give it up for the women’s squash team, who earned a place on this list by winning a thriller in the national semifinals. After trailing No. 3 Trinity by 3-0 and 4-3 margins, the Quakers rallied back to tie it at 4-4 thanks to sophomore Reeham Salah’s win in the No. 1 slot and senior Anaka Alankamony’s dramatic clincher. Alas, the Quakers couldn’t keep the magic going in the national finals, where they lost to Harvard.
7) February 25: Men’s Lacrosse — Penn 11, No. 6 Virginia 10
The best game during Penn’s 2017 lacrosse season was certainly the Quakers’ crazy four-overtime loss to top-seeded Yale in the Ivy League Tournament. But as far as wins go, none were more impressive than Penn’s upset of then-No. 6 Virginia — which, interestingly enough, happened on the same day as the previous win on this list. The game matched the highest-ranked win over an opponent in head coach Mike Murphy’s tenure but the Quakers would duplicate the feat with another win over Virginia later in the season.
6) January 15: Wrestling — Penn 19, No. 17 Stanford 17
Before resigning at the end of the 2016-17 season, Penn wrestling coach Alex Tirapelle got a signature win, upsetting the team he used to work for as an assistant coach. With the Quakers trailing by one, Max Bethea narrowly won the final bout to propel Penn to its first win over a ranked opponent in five years.
5) April 22: Women’s Lacrosse — Penn 13, Harvard 10
Three days after topping No. 6 Princeton, the Quakers continued a season-defining stretch with this come-from-behind road win over the Crimson. Despite falling behind 5-1, Penn used a staunch defensive effort and timely goals from star Alex Condon to win a game that set them up to capture their whopping 10th regular-season Ivy title in 11 years the following week.
4) October 22: Field Hockey — Penn 3, No. 10 Syracuse 2
Senior Alexa Hoover proved why she was perhaps the best field hockey player in school history, delivering a stunning goal to lift the Quakers to a huge home upset of a national powerhouse. How excited was Hoover about the game-winning goal? She threw her stick in jubilation, got a penalty and was high-fived by her equally fired-up coach on the way off the field.
3) November 4: Football — Penn 38, Princeton 35
[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20u3koJNpfg[/youtube]
After coming on the wrong end of some down-to-the-wire games that doomed their Ivy threepeat hopes, the Quakers prevailed in an exciting Homecoming thriller over their arch-rival. In what was the highest-scoring game of the Penn-Princeton rivalry since 1940, the Quakers once again rode the dominance of All-American Justin Watson, who caught the game-winning touchdown in a game he became the program’s all-time leader in career receptions. It initially looked like Princeton then scored a game-winning TD of its own but one referee ruled no catch after another one had signaled for a TD, and the Tigers missed a tying field goal that would have sent it into OT.
2) March 12: Women’s Basketball — Penn 57, Princeton 48
The game itself might not have been as dramatic as some other ones on the list but as far as stakes go, it’s hard to beat a win over Princeton, at the Palestra, in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament championship. The Quakers had also beaten Princeton to win the Ivy title in 2014 and 2016 but this was the first time they got to do it at home and cut down the nets in front of fans. And the victory secured the team a spot in the NCAA Tournament, where they very nearly had a win that would have surely topped this list before suffering a crushing collapse.
1) March 4: Men’s Basketball — Penn 75, Harvard 72
Looking back at Penn sports in 2017, no moment was better than Jackson Donahue calmly drilling a three-pointer in front of his own bench to send Penn into the first Ivy League Tournament after an 0-6 start to conference play. Penn head coach Steve Donahue later called the three in the final seconds a “historic shot,” and senior Matt Howard helped spur the upset of the favored Crimson with a career-high 24 points and 12 rebounds. The win also seemed to give new life to the Quakers, who put a serious scare into top-seeded Princeton in the Ivy semifinals in their bid to make their first NCAA Tournament in 10 years. Hey, there’s always 2018 for that, right?
— Dave Zeitlin C’03