At 6-foot-5, Penn men’s lacrosse freshman Sam Handley towers over many of his teammates. But his height isn’t the only reason he stands out.
As a freshman, Handley has played in all seven of the Quakers’ games so far this season and has scored in almost every one of them.
Unlike many of his teammates, who are from the Northeast and East Coast, Handley is from Portland, Ore. He played at Jesuit High School in Portland and was first discovered by Penn’s coach Mike Murphy at a recruiting event on the East Coast. Murphy immediately took notice of Handley.
“He’s obviously tall, but more importantly, he’s very skilled. He’s athletic; for that height, he moves very well,” Murphy said.
Handley started playing lacrosse in the third grade on the advice of his grandfather, who played college lacrosse at Dartmouth and wanted Handley to pick up the sport as well.
In high school, Handley was a three-time US Lacrosse All-American and an Adrenaline Lacrosse All-American in 2018. His success has followed him to college, where he has been a great attribute to Penn’s offense.
“I think what probably makes him the most unique is how well he understands the game and sees the field,” Murphy said. “We talk about developing people or identifying people that are strong technically, tactically, and physically, and he’s pretty far along in all three for a freshman.”
College lacrosse is obviously more competitive than high school lacrosse, but Handley didn’t have too much trouble adjusting.
“I mean, everyone can pass and catch with both hands, which is something new to me,” Handley said. “Everyone is just a great athlete and a great competitor.”
Adding to his 13 goals this season, Handley has also racked up a considerable number of assists this season: 14, to be exact. Handley isn’t afraid to pass the ball and has proved that he knows how to support his teammates.
“He comes on the field quickly, and he makes quick decisions. He just processes information really fast,” Murphy said. “On the field, some people kind of don’t really see everything, and it takes them an extra second to process what’s going on around them. He processes things very quickly and anticipates who’s going to be open, which makes him very difficult to defend.”
Handley’s ability to read the field and understand the game has earned him a great deal of playing time. Senior attackman Simon Mathias sees Handley as an important addition to the team.
“All around, he’s a very skilled player. His size is an incredible advantage in this league and in this sport,” Mathias said. “I don’t think you really find a combination of speed, strength, skill, size in a lot of players in that position that can piece together such a good season at such a young age. He’s really added a spark to our offense.”
Handley recognizes his contributions to the team but remains humble.
“I’m just grateful that my teammates put me in that position and allowed me to succeed,” Handley said. “I feel pretty comfortable out there, and I think that speaks to the welcoming environment of this team and the leadership of the upperclassmen.”
The Quakers’ Ivy League play will continue as they take on Yale this Saturday at Franklin Field — and Handley will be right in the mix.