It’s not often in college athletics that a freshman can come in and enjoy the success you’d expect from a seasoned veteran. But for Penn men’s lacrosse’s starting goalie Reed Junkin, putting together strings of high-caliber performances has already become business as usual.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound freshman from Wayland, Mass., has started every game for the Quakers this year, shoring up play at a position that seemed to be a big question mark for the team coming in to the 2016 season. Junkin has provided the answer to that question time and again for the Red and Blue, already having garnered three Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards — one of which came alongside an Ivy League Player of the week award after the team’s 9-6 win over Cornell.
He was the first player to earn both honors in the same week since 2005.
Junkin’s recognition has not been restricted to the Ivy League. Junkin is part of a highly-touted recruiting class for Penn that was ranked No. 4 by Inside Lacrosse coming into the year, and his play through ten games earned him the No. 4 spot in Inside Lacrosse’s early season freshman rankings, alongside freshman defenseman Noah Lejman, who came in at No. 16.
It’s safe to say that not many people were expecting Junkin to see the level of success he has so far this season, himself included.
“Last year, there were a senior and junior that split time, and we had a couple other goalies on the team as well, so I knew coming into the year it would be a big competition,” he said. “But then two of the guys left the team, and I didn’t know until pretty close to the beginning of the season that I was going to start, so it was kind of a surprise to me.
“I know a couple of years back Brian Feeney (Class of 2014) came in and started all four years, but it’s usually pretty tough for a freshman to start. But after working hard and getting a feel for college lacrosse, getting a feel for the shots [and] assimilating with the game, I felt like I was getting better and was better able to show my ability than at the beginning of the year, so it worked out.”
Making the transition from high school to college lacrosse is no small task. Even though Junkin played against tough talent in the highly-skilled and highly-competitive Massachusetts Independent School League at Belmont Hill, college lacrosse presents a whole new beast. The players are bigger, faster, older and stronger, the shots have more velocity, the time commitment is greater and the academic workload and responsibility can be much heavier. Fortunately for Penn, Junkin has seemed to make the transition smoothly.
“One thing that makes Reed great is obviously his athleticism, he’s a big kid who has got a lot of talent,” coach Mike Murphy said. “But the other thing that makes Reed great is his ability to focus. Whether it be in the classroom or on the field, a lot of kids don’t have that. So he’s been able to improve his game a lot since he got here in September.”
So it appears that Junkin has all the tools necessary to claim his starting spot for years to come. And in looking at all of the contributions from other young members of the team, Penn looks to be in a position to capitalize on that success.
But right now, the team’s focus is on the present. Though a young team, Penn men’s lacrosse has fared pretty well over the course of the season, winning the games it should and giving top teams a run for their money — even comfortably beating a ranked Penn State squad.
Though a tight loss to then-No. 1 Yale and a blowout loss to No. 3 Brown show that the team still has a lot to learn, Penn has the potential to make waves against the nation’s top teams when it plays its best lacrosse.
It will be interesting to see just how far Junkin and the rest of the young Quakers can carry this team.
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