It was a different sort of offseason for Penn men’s soccer.
Last fall saw a team coming off a disappointing season return to campus with a newfound vigor following intense training in the spring and will its way to an Ivy League title.
And though the circumstances are certainly different in 2014 — title defending being much different than title chasing — the team appears mentally up to the challenge of repeating as Ivy champs.
“The year before, coming off that spring, was a completely different mentality, different team in the way we approached the season,” senior forward Duke Lacroix said.
“It’s a bit different in terms of how we finished off last year, but I think the intensity is all there, and it has to be there every year.”
Though it’s too early to see the development of a team culture that will certainly miss a strong group of senior personalities, and players, Lacroix saw a number of underclassmen stepping up from the moment they took the turf in spring practice.
“We lost a really good class, a real close-knit group of guys who did a great job leading our team,” he said. “Everyone has stepped up, even the sophomores, to gel the team together and work with the freshmen to get ready for the upcoming season.”
Along with the departure of seven seniors, the Quakers also have to weather the loss of sophomores Sam Hayward, who transferred to Virginia, and Travis Pillon, who left the team for personal reasons.
Hayward and Pillon both played significant minutes for the team last season. Hayward was second on the team with five goals, while Pillon started nine games and made significant contributions on both ends of the pitch.
Meanwhile, Penn added a pair of players in junior goalkeeper and UCSB transfer Nick Savino and sophomore midfielder Levi Levenfiche.
Savino spent last season recovering from shoulder surgery and serving as a student-manager for the team. Though junior Max Polkinhorne finished last season goalkeeping for the Quakers, early practices will help to decide who starts the season in goal.
Levenfiche originally tried out for the team during walk-on recruiting last season and ended up narrowly missing the cut. After working out with the team during their spring practices, he was added to the roster.
The other major addition of the offseason was assistant coach Mike Piranian, who was previously with Carnegie Mellon. While there, Piranian helped the Tartans to four NCAA Tournament appearances in six years.
“He has a very strong background at a like environment, coming from Carnegie Mellon, a very prestigious, high-academic institution where there are a lot of challenges for the athletes there to stay successful in both areas,” coach Rudy Fuller said.
“He’s won everywhere he’s gone — he won as a player, he won as a coach. That fits in well with what we’ve established at Penn.”
Once again, Fuller and his staff found themselves a tough nonconference slate, including a pair of games in Washington state against Washington and Seattle — both of which made NCAA appearances — in early September.
“The goal for us is to not only win the Ivy League but to win a national championship,” Fuller said.
“In order to do that, you’ve got to go out and play games against the best teams you can find.”
The Quakers will find themselves back in action on Sept. 5 when they face next-door rival Drexel at Rhodes Field as part of the University City Classic.