DREXEL'S BEN McIntosh will have the same routine on Sunday as he would for any other of his lacrosse games in Philadelphia. He is going to sleep in a little bit, eat a big meal before the game, get to the stadium early to warm up, and lead his team into battle.
The routine is the same, but everything else is different. Instead of heading to the comforts of Vidas Field, the home of the Dragons, he will be heading south a few blocks to Franklin Field to take on Penn in the first NCAA Tournament game in Drexel lacrosse history.
"We will be sleeping in our own beds and have our pregame meals on Saturday night," McIntosh said. "Pretty much, we are going to play everything up until the game like we are playing a home game and then get on a bus for a short drive over to their field."
Drexel gets its shot at the NCAA Tournament after falling just short in recent years. They won the CAA Tournament in a dramatic, 11-10, triple-overtime win over Hofstra after falling in the CAA semifinals to Towson last season. They have been nationally ranked in 6 of the last 8 years, with their highest ranking coming in 2010 when they climbed to seventh in the nation.
"We have been working for this thing for a long time," Dragons head coach Brian Voelker said. "We feel like we have been really close in the past, and we were able to bust that door down, and we are really excited to be here. Now the big challenge is to put all that stuff behind you and work hard to prepare for a really good team on Sunday."
The really good team Voelker was referring to happens to be just blocks away. Penn comes into the NCAA Tournament 11-3, and the second-highest RPI in college lacrosse, behind Syracuse. The Quakers' defense is highly touted, giving up just 123 goals in 14 games. They have allowed just 24 goals in the fourth period all season. Despite the daunting task ahead of them, the Dragons know what they have to do to get past the Quakers.
"They are a good team," senior attackman Nick Trizano said. "They have a lot of good players. They have played a pretty tough schedule, their RPI is pretty high. We just have to go out there and play our best. We will see what happens on Sunday."
"Penn is a great team, and we don't play them in the regular season but we scrimmage them and it is always a good rivalry game," McIntosh said. "It is competitive, we are both in the same town. It is great. It is a lot of fun."
A big reason Drexel is in the postseason for the first time is the play of McIntosh. The senior midfielder was an All-America last year, and is well on his way to receiving that honor again. He is a co-captain of this year's team as well.
The Coquitlam, British Columbia native has 43 goals on the season, which is ninth highest in the nation, and the highest among any midfielder. He currently sits just two goals away from the school record for goals in a season, and has paced the Dragons all season long.
"If you look at his numbers, those things speak for themselves," Voelker said. "There is no middie in the country that means more to their team. To me, he should be a first-team All-American. It is not only that stuff, it is his attitude, his work ethic. He is a guy that a lot of our young guys look up to, and hopefully we are going to emulate the things that have made him successful."
"Ben has always been a great player and a great leader for our team," Trizano said. "He has been a great leader on and off the field. With his help, hopefully we can make it through to the next round."
Drexel's quest to become the first Philadelphia team to make the NCAA quarterfinals since Penn did it in 1988 starts Sunday at Franklin Field at 3 p.m. Regardless, a Philly team will advance to the quarterfinals to play for a shot at being in the Final Four. Before any of that happens, a rivalry will spark on South 33rd Street.
"We'll get some cheesesteaks and they'll get some cheesesteaks and we'll go play some West Philly ball on Sunday," Voelker said.