Penn men’s soccer is entering unique territory in the program’s history.
Two years removed from an Ivy League title, gone now are graduated mainstays like Duke Lacroix and Kamar Saint-Louis. Now in their place are a handful of seniors that have yet to compile numerous starts for the Red and Blue.
Even though they are well known for their high-profile freshman class, the Quakers make up for their youth with strength in the form of vast experience. Despite the loss of Lacroix and Saint-Louis, many of the team’s cogs from 2014 — including senior goalkeeper Max Polkinhorne, senior midfielder Forrest Clancy and junior forward Alec Neumann, to name a few — return in 2015 with hopes to make yet another push for an Ancient Eight championship.
Based on the loss of quality veterans and an inevitable reliance on freshmen, it may seem that Penn’s outlook is bleak this fall. However, that has not stopped the upperclassmen from instilling in the freshmen a desire to win.
Polkinhorne believes that the current seniors have had an important impact on the freshmen’s motivation levels thus far.
“I think everyone’s kind of gotten everyone else on the right track for those goals so it’s looking good,” he said.
On the backline, the team welcomes several players who will see full-time action this season. Senior backs Aaron Chen and Griffin Heffner have earned starting spots this season after spot starting in 2014. And even though the experience level on the defensive side of the ball is not as great as a veteran goalkeeper would like, Polkinhorne is still confident in the unit’s ability to succeed.
“Honestly, I think we’ve got a lot of depth on the team, even if those guys haven’t started a lot of games,” Polkinhorne said. “I think everyone’s always prepared coming off the bench, so I think we’re ready to go.”
Further up the pitch, having so many upperclassmen step in at midfield has been a major help for Clancy.
“Communication is so important when you’re out there on the field. You need your teammates around you all the time, talking to you,” he said. “To have guys who know what they’re doing and know what they’re talking to you behind you and all around you at all times is incredibly useful and helps midfielders get down on defense.”
Players like Clancy and junior midfielder Matt Poplawski return and have worked to build rapport with newcomers like freshmen midfielders Gavin Barger and Erumuse Momoh. Clancy, like Polkinhorne behind him, believes that the upperclassmen have had an important impact on the newcomers.
“The upperclassmen really know how to get everyone else going and inspire the freshmen so I have a lot of belief in them,” Clancy said.
On the attack, the Red and Blue still have Neumann, the star who is now tasked with producing quality chances for himself and for attacking midfielders. Even though Lacroix graduated in May, Neumann still has utmost confidence in his supporting cast. In an effort to improve their rapport with one another, the midfielders and attackers have stayed after practice recently to work on combination play.
Still, the team has been held scoreless thus far through two games. Yet coach Rudy Fuller doesn’t view that as a major concern for the team.
“The scoring woes [are] less of an issue to me than our overall approach,” Fuller said. “Our goals are going to come. It’s going to take time because we have so many new relationships on the front half on the field.
For the Quakers, this season is not about a last-ditch effort to win the Ivy title before the impressive class of 2016 graduates. Rather, it is a time for the team’s veterans to mentor the youth and a period to see what this team can do with a praiseworthy mix of experience and potential.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.