It is never a happy moment when a player like senior forward Duke Lacroix plays his last game for Penn men’s soccer.
A mainstay in the Quakers’ starting lineup for the past four seasons, Lacroix is the only member of the Red and Blue to have ever won both Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year, having done so in 2011 and 2013, respectively.
And with Lacroix’s accolades in mind, it’s understandable for coach Rudy Fuller to believe that replacing the New Egypt, N.J., native is a daunting task, if not downright impossible.
“Duke brought so much to the table as a player with his pace and athleticism, his work rate [and] his mentality,” Fuller said. “You’re not going to replace Duke.”
Sophomore forward Alec Neumann — someone whom many view as an understudy to the decorated veteran — also understands how special a player Lacroix was for the Red and Blue throughout his career.
“I think it’ll be difficult [to replace Lacroix],” Neumann said. “He’s definitely been one of the biggest parts of the equation on our team the past couple of years.”
Even before Lacroix played a game for the Quakers, he arrived at Penn as a highly touted prospect, according to Fuller. Yet over the course of four years, Lacroix took his game to the next level.
“It’s a very rare occurrence for somebody to come in and be Rookie of the Year and progress on to Player of the Year in the league.” Fuller said. “Duke did that in [only] three years.”
Towards the end of his junior season, Lacroix knocked in a game-clinching goal against Harvard that ultimately won the Quakers the Ivy League title. The senior remembers that game as his favorite memory as a Quaker.
And although last season marked Lacroix’s only Ivy League title, his play on the field and his leadership off of it are what made him a genuine star for the Red and Blue.
“Anything soccer related, he takes it very professionally,” Neumann said. “He’s really an all-around professional whether it’s lifting or training, fitness or staying and doing some ball work after practice.
“On the field he’s one of the most productive and driven players, and off the field he’s one of the greatest guys.”
With his career for the Quakers wrapped up, Lacroix has been endlessly thanked by his team. But the veteran forward has made sure to return that thanks to his coaches and teammates.
“I think over the past four years, my team and coach Fuller and the coaching staff have done a great job keeping me focused,” Lacroix said. “Coach Fuller has helped me personally both on and off the field — he’s a great coach and a better person.”
Even though all is said and done for his soccer career at Penn, Lacroix has no intentions of retiring from the sport. Instead, he wants to move on to the next level, be it in Major League Soccer or in a league abroad.
Even after having won three Ivy titles and coaching Penn soccer stars like Alex Grendi, Christian Barreiro and Drew Healy , Fuller acknowledges Lacroix’s place among the greats.
“He’s clearly one of the best players I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach at Penn or elsewhere,” Fuller said.
For Duke, the future looks bright. But no matter what the future has in store for Lacroix’s soccer career, when all is said and done, he will always be a Penn soccer legend.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.