Penn’s “quietest dynasty” is making some real noise this season.
As a result of an impressive, undefeated showing at the Regional tournament, Penn men’s club soccer (10-0-2) earned itself a trip to Phoenix, Ariz. to compete in the College Club Soccer Championship National Tournament. According to their GoFundMe page, this is “the first time in recent memory this has happened.” This claim is followed with a small disclaimer: “we aren’t so good with keeping official records.”
As whimsical remarks like this illustrate, the “Dolphinos” — a nickname derived from their website’s dolphin.upenn URL address — are a freewheeling, fun-loving team. They do not have a coach, half of the team lacked the proper uniform this season and they are almost entirely self-sufficient.
According to super-senior Pele Collins, this is a key to their success.
“It’s a way more relaxed atmosphere. You don’t have a bunch of adults from Penn coming and shouting at you. You’re doing what you want… and I think part of the reason that we have done so well and that our team is so good is because we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” the captain said.
Senior Eli Cohen chimed in, adding, “We literally make dolphin calls on our way onto the field.
“And other teams hate us because of it!”
The success that the Dolphinos have achieved this season has not stopped Cohen from being lighthearted about the whole situation.
“Yeah, we made Nationals this year without getting our uniform orders in,” Cohen noted.
The Dolphinos’ relaxed, easygoing culture starkly contrasts the intensely competitive process of trying out and making the team.
Collins remembers there being 80 students at tryouts for the team his freshman year. He was one of three men to make it. Cohen had an even more competitive experience, as 100 students tried out for four spots in his freshman year. This high level of competition in tryouts means that the Dolphinos are bringing in quality talent every year.
The talent certainly showed itself this season.
The Dolphinos are undefeated on the season, outscoring their opponents 28-5 over the course of their 12 game schedule. Is it because of weak competition? Not at all. Point and Case: their victories against Penn State, University of Massachusetts and Drexel.
The 5-3 victory over Drexel’s A-team is of particular interest — it was the moment where members of the team realized that Nationals was a true possibility, and it also set off a fiasco that only the Dolphinos could find themselves a part of.
The story is best told by Collins and Cohen.
“Basically this one team in our division was undefeated, 8-0–,” started Cohen, cautiously avoiding naming the exact team.
“You can say it was Drexel,” interjected Collins, deeming the anonymity granted to the Dragons by Cohen unnecessary.
“Yeah, Drexel — we came to play them and just spanked them on their field, like so hard. I think that was when I realized that we were just sick,” continued Cohen.
Collins followed. “They hyped up the game, they made a Facebook event, and we were just quietly doing our own thing, just not saying anything —”
“Spanked them,” Cohen repeated for emphasis as Collins spoke.
“— and we played so well. That was the best we played all season,” Collins said, grinning.
Now, the twist.
“Then, basically, Drexel contested the result, and then we needed to go through a two plus week appeals process to make sure that we got the win we deserved, because we spanked them,” Cohen said.
“So, until the Monday of Regionals — Regionals was on that weekend — we weren’t going to go to Regionals. The whole team was expecting us not to go, and then we get an email saying, ‘You guys won your division — you’re going to Regionals.’ So, then we’re like ‘okay cool — we need to practice and get ready for Regionals!’ And then, from then to a week later, we’re going to Nationals, which was the craziest swing of emotions,” recounted Collins.
It’s hard not to love the Dolphinos and their circuitous trip to Nationals. Their next obstacle? The literal trip to Nationals.
The team lacks the funding to fly everyone out to Phoenix, Ariz., so they started a GoFundMe in order to make it possible. As of the publication of this article, they have raised nearly $2,000.
“We’ve had club soccer alumni donate, we’ve had parents donate, we’ve had some random friends donate,” said Collins. “And we had some random woman donate $500 — nobody knows who she is."
The dream is becoming a reality for the Dolphinos, and if they are able to get the team to Phoenix, they will be met with some tough opposition.
Are they ready? Of course they are.
“I’m optimistic,” said Collins, giddy with excitement. “I think we’re riding a wave right now. We’ve beat expectations completely this season, and no matter what happens, I think it’ll be one for the record books.”