There won’t be any sports played in the Ivy League this fall, but we can still speculate over what might have been.
Penn’s fall teams found little success last year in pursuit of Ivy titles. If the fall season was just getting underway this year, which teams would be the most likely championship contenders?
Last year’s Quakers were, in a word, disappointing.
Some unfortunate and ugly losses added up to a 3-4 conference record. Gone now are numerous key starters on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Nick Robinson, running back Karekin Brooks, defensive lineman Taheeb Sonekan, defensive backs Sam Philippi and Jacob Martin, three offensive line starters, and almost the entire linebacking corps.
With all of this upheaval amidst a growing Ivy League championship drought since their last title in 2016, how could the Quakers take down Ivy heavyweights in Dartmouth, Princeton, and Yale? Well, after three years of battling for the starting job, senior quarterback Ryan Glover was finally ready to take control of the position. Along with junior wide receiver Ryan Cragun coming into his own as a No. 1 target, the passing game and the offense as a whole looked like it could take a step forward this season.
On the defensive end, the Red and Blue’s strength would have been in preventing the pass. Junior defensive back Mohammed Diakite seemed to be on the cusp of Ivy stardom as the leader of a young and talented defensive back group. Last year, despite their poor finish, the Quakers were competitive. This season, they were looking ready to rejoin the upper echelon of Ivy football teams.
Like football, women’s soccer finished last season in a less-than-ideal position at sixth in the Ivy League with a 2-5 conference record. Incredibly, each of their losses in the Ivy League were 1-0 defeats. With such a brutal and frustrating run a year ago, the Quakers were hungry to flip those close defeats into victories en route to an Ivy League championship.
New head coach Casey Brown inherited a roster with three All-Ivy selections still on it in senior Breukelen Woodard and sophomore Sizzy Lawton in the midfield and sophomore Peyton Raun on defense.
The Quakers’ most crushing defeat came against eventual Ivy champion Brown in a double-overtime thriller. Ranked 18th in the country at the time, Brown finished undefeated (with one tie) atop the conference. The Quakers competed with the Bears more than almost any other team and looked to be even more dangerous this season.
Despite the inevitable growing pains from playing under new leadership, Penn women’s soccer had the talent to take the Ivy title this year.
Ivy League men’s soccer was dominated by Yale last year.
The Quakers finished second in the conference behind the Elis but were six points back in the standings. Yale dominated the All-Ivy Teams, led by Offensive Player of the Year Mark Winhoffer. The Quakers, however, were led by Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Alex Touche, who would’ve again been a force for Penn this season as a senior.
Senior midfielder Joey Bhangdia also joined Touche on the All-Ivy first team last season as the Quakers’ top scorer with six goals. With sophomore Kai Lammers stepping up alongside Touche to lead arguably the strongest backline in the Ivy League, the Quakers were well-positioned to run through conference play to an eventual showdown with the Yale juggernaut.
In fact, the Red and Blue handed Yale its only conference defeat last season in a tight double-overtime contest. All told, Penn played four double-overtime conference games and tied three of them. Like the women’s team, being able to flip these results in their favor could immediately turn the Quakers from competitors to champions in the Ivy League.
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