For the last three years, the number ‘12’ has carried weight with the Penn soccer team.
Thomas Brandt wore the number during both years of his captaincy, and after Brandt’s graduation, junior Jonny Dolezal took over the number as well as the captaincy.
The resemblance is eerie. Brandt and Dolezal don the same number, both became captains in their junior years and both play the same position on the field as center back.
They also share leadership qualities, but they come out in different ways.
“Jonny is probably more fiery than Tommy was,” coach Rudy Fuller said. “But they’re both competitive — they want to win at anything that they do — and they both take a lot of responsibility for the success of our team.”
Dolezal admits to yelling at various points in the game to maintain the team’s energy. Center back is a position that requires the player to win a lot of balls in the air or pay the consequences.
“That’s why I have to get myself fired up,” he said.
For the first two years of his college career, Dolezal played as a wing, watching Brandt and former star defender Jake Levin consistently win battles in the air. Dolezal was eager to get back to playing center back, his position before coming to Penn.
While he knows the position well, he’s found the college game to be more demanding.
“It’s definitely more difficult, more physical,” Dolezal said. “It just comes back down to battling.”
That’s a lesson that Dolezal has learned the hard way over the last season and a half. In 2011, the Quakers repeatedly lost close games by giving up untimely goals. The result was a sixth-place finish in the Ivy League for a team that was poised for a title run.
With Dolezal and senior Travis Cantrell taking over captain duties, the result has been more of the same. After six games, Penn is still looking for its first win.
“I can hear Tommy’s voice, telling Jonny to ‘just stay the course,’” Fuller said.
While fiery on the field, Dolezal has a calm understanding of the situation and what the team needs to do.
“We need to stay positive, work hard in practice and just make sure that everyone is staying focused,” Dolezal said. “The goals will come, and the wins will come.”
The Quakers are a young team, and building those connections on the field won’t happen instantly in an offense centered around ball movement.
Having Dolezal and Cantrell serve as co-captains, however, has helped bring everyone closer together.
“We both bring something different to the team in terms of leadership,” Dolezal said. “I try to lead by example while Travis will get in your face a little bit more.”
With a small senior class and a large group of juniors, Dolezal binds the groups together.
“It’s very similar to the year when Tommy was a junior captain,” Fuller said. “Having Jonny in a leadership position brings everyone into the fold.”
In Brandt’s first year as captain, the Quakers went on to win a game in the NCAA Tournament.
Perhaps this 2012 squad is set up for the same fate as in 2010.