Following the early cancellation of spring athletics, the most Penn sports fans can do now is look forward to what fall may bring.
Still, the fate of the fall season hangs in limbo, as the NCAA, Ivy League, and Penn have yet to make a decision on how athletics will play out.
But in the spirit of staying positive, here are players to watch for each fall sport at Penn.
Following the graduation of four seniors who received All-Ivy recognition — three of them on the first team — the Red and Blue will have to rely on the performance of younger players.
One such player is rising junior wide receiver Ryan Cragun. Though Cragun didn’t see any game action as a freshman, his sophomore season performance promises good things to come.
Playing in nine out of the Quakers’ ten games, Cragun led all other Quakers in receiving yards by a margin of over 200 yards, with 885 in 58 catches, including three touchdowns. In particular, his performance at Yale was enough to cement him in the Penn record books, as he recorded both the fifth-most receiving yards and catches in a single game in program history.
With quarterback Nick Robinson graduating, Cragun will look to continue his success with a different signal caller under center.
Longtime head coach Bill Wagner retired following the conclusion of the 2019 sprint football season, thus concluding his 50-season long tenure. His retirement, along with the promotion of Jerry McConnell to the head coach position and the graduation of quarterback and CSFL Player of the Year Eddie Jenkins, marks a new era with sprint football.
Rising junior running back Laquan McKever is one player who can define the upcoming season. As a sophomore, McKever averaged over 100 yards per game, culminating in a team-leading total of 766 rushing yards.
At the conclusion of the season, McKever had played in all seven of Penn’s games and was once named the Collegiate Sprint Football League’s Player of the Week. McKever also received first team All-CSFL selection.
With uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position heading into the fall, the Quakers may rely on McKever even more than they did last season.
Rising senior Anthony Russo has already proved himself a stand-out runner for Penn’s men’s cross country team. In both of the past two seasons, Russo qualified for the NCAA XC championships, serving as the only representative for Penn cross country this past season. At last year’s championship, Russo placed 89th out of more than 240 runners, with a time of 31:54.9, improving from his 2018 performance, where he placed 187th.
Russo has received USTFCCCA XC All-Mid-Atlantic Region recognition twice in the past two seasons, along with a first team All-Ivy designation this past season after being named to the second team a season prior.
Considering not only his consistent performance but also his improvement, it will be exciting to see what Russo might manage in his final season at Penn.
On the women’s side, rising junior Ariana Gardizy left an impression during her second season at Penn. Gardizy scored in all five of her appearances during the 2019 season, serving as one of Penn’s most consistent runners.
At the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, Gardizy recorded the fastest time for Penn, placing 17th with a time of 20:40.6 and helping Penn’s women’s team finish sixth out of 31 teams.
Gardizy received second team All-Ivy and USTFCCCA All-Mid-Atlantic Region honors upon the conclusion of her sophomore season.
Both Penn’s men’s and women’s soccer teams have players who are already accomplished, despite having played only one season so far.
Rising sophomore Kai Lammers received a plethora of recognition following his impressive freshman season, where he started at left back in 15 out of the Quakers’ 16 games. As part of an imposing defense, Lammers helped post six shutouts in 16 matches. Despite being a defender, Lammers also tied for second on the team with two goals, and third with five points total.
During the season, Lammers was the Ivy League Rookie of the Week after scoring the game-winning goal at Harvard. At its conclusion, Lammers received second team All-Ivy recognition, the only Penn freshman on the men’s team to receive All-Ivy recognition at all.
The women’s team has an additional adjustment to make. After former head coach Nicole Van Dyke’s resignation to instead coach at the University of Washington, the team will be coached by Casey Brown, who formerly coached at Holy Cross.
Part of Penn’s push to improve from last year includes rising sophomores Sizzy Lawton and Peyton Raun, who both received honorable mention All-Ivy recognition.
Lawton contributed offensively, scoring the third-most goals and earning the third-most points on the team with three and seven, respectively. After scoring the game winner at Dartmouth, Lawton garnered Ivy League Rookie of the Week recognition.
Raun served as the team’s workhorse, starting fifteen games and leading the entire team in minutes played, with 1,330 minutes. As part of the team’s defense, she helped post five shutouts throughout the season.
Keeping with the theme of rising sophomores who had an impressive freshman season is Elita van Staden, a member of Penn field hockey’s defense.
Van Staden, who enjoyed an illustrious high school career playing on South Africa’s Junior National Teams, appeared in each of the Quakers’ 17 games, starting 13. In those games, she led the entire team in goals with seven, points with 14 and game-winning goals with two. Twelve of her points came in conference play, ranking sixth in the entirety of the Ivy League.
Upon receiving second team All-Ivy recognition, Van Staden became the first Penn freshman to receive an All-Ivy honor since graduating senior Alexa Schneck did so in 2016.
The 2019 volleyball season ended abruptly in scandal-rocked fashion, followed by the resignation of head coach Iain Braddak. With the hiring of Meredith Schamun, formerly a Villanova assistant coach, as the new head coach, Penn volleyball is bound to look a lot different than it has the past two seasons.
One player to keep an eye out for during this change is rising sophomore outside hitter Autumn Leak, who had a stunning 2019 season as a freshman. She ranked fourth on the team in blocks with 32 and second on the team in kills with 200, becoming the first Quaker freshman to record 200 or more kills since rising senior and DP staffer Parker Jones—the only member of the team to record more kills than Leak the past season—was a freshman in 2017.
Leak was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week following a win at Dartmouth, becoming, again, the first freshman since Parker Jones to receive the honor.
Even with the graduation of the previous year’s impressive seniors, each of Penn’s fall sports has a plenitude of talent to await for when the start of the school year rolls around.
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