The more, the merrier. That seems to be the men’s soccer team’s stance when it comes to captains.
Typically, soccer teams select one or two team captains. Some teams even have three. But last Friday, the Quakers announced that they would have four captains this fall.
Joining senior Jonny Dolezal — who served as captain last year as well — are seniors Ethan Jones and Stephen Baker along with junior Duke Lacroix. It is the first time that coach Rudy Fuller will use four captains on one of his teams.
“There were four deserving guys,” coach Rudy Fuller said. “Each brought a little something different from a leadership perspective.”
The record number of captains is also an indicator of the depth in leadership and experience that the team has. The senior class has seven members, one of the largest classes in recent years.
“Obviously the leadership of the team spreads beyond those four guys,” Fuller said. “The senior class is a really tight group. It’s a really responsible group and all of them are pitching in their own way.”
Baker emphasized that it is still a matter of leadership by committee, regardless of who is named as captain.
“A captain is just someone who wears an armband,” Baker said. “Our entire class could have been captains. So it’s more of just a formal leadership role, everybody plays like a captain.”
After a disappointing 2012 season in which the team went 3-13, there was a leadership void that needed to be filled as the team was rebuilding.
A demanding spring schedule helped the senior class to make that transition into a cohesive group to lead the underclassmen.
“It was a challenging spring and those guys never blinked,” Fuller said. “They just put their heads down and grinded through it. And that set the tone.
“It wasn’t just that they did it, it’s how they did it. It really set a good tone and example for the guys underneath them and really put our program back on the right track.”
This fall, Penn’s senior class will be its largest since 2010, when the Quakers found great success and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“I see a lot of similarities between the two classes,” Baker said. “They were a complete class where everybody got along, everybody was on the same page. We just have to be airtight and put forth a group effort for us to be successful.”
That 2010 class had a huge impact on this year’s seniors, who were freshmen at the time.
“Those guys three years ago set an example for us that none of us have forgotten,” Jones said. “It was great having them as role models and we have an opportunity as a special class now to lead the group to something great.”
This year’s seniors understand how important it is as a freshman coming in to have a group of senior role models to look up to, and they hope to make the same kind of positive impact on the current freshmen in order to make a permanent mark on the program for years to come.
“The way that they treated us … was one that made us feel like we were a part of the team from day one,” Baker said. “That was definitely a contributor to our success and we want to do the same for our freshmen.”
Whether this team can emulate the on-field success of that 2010 squad remains to be seen, although the Red and Blue got off to a strong start with two dominating wins in their debut weekend.
“Only time will tell with the results how far we can go,” Fuller said. “But certainly there’s a different vibe and feel to the group this year than last year.”
One thing is clear: Over the past nine months, there has been a definite positive change in mentality among the players, and the senior class is at the forefront of that transformation.
“It’s a very diverse, very eclectic class but in some ways that makes us more effective, more spirited,” senior midfielder Alex Reddy said. “There’s a certain feel to it when you know it’s going to be a good season and this group definitely has that.”
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