During an intersquad scrimmage in early March, then-junior Sean Lulley knew it wasn’t good news when a bunch of administrators arrived at practice. Now, with the 2020 season in the past, Lulley and Penn men’s lacrosse are looking forward to 2021.
Coming off a 2019 season in which the Quakers won the Ivy League title and won their first NCAA Tournament game in over 30 years, hopes were high for an even better 2020. Penn started out the year with a 2-3 record, looking to finish strong in the remaining seven games, which were never played.
As the players are unable to practice as a team and utilize the regular facilities that Penn has to offer, now-senior attacker Lulley described how the athletes have gotten creative to maintain their team's camaraderie and training regimen.
“We made a schedule that gives guys certain times to go do stuff together. We have a lot of time slots where we have groups of four or five people go drive to a field together or go work out together whether that’s using weights in the basement of one of our houses or doing some sort of body-weight exercise,” Lulley said.
This initiative from the players in being proactive with training arises from the trust that coach Mike Murphy has in his team.
“We don’t really need to do anything in that regard [of training]. They have enough pride in who they are and enough commitment to each other and to what we’re trying to do that we don’t monitor them at all,” Murphy said. “They understand what kind of shape they need to be in for us to be competitive. They let the freshman know about that and kind of how we do things. … In terms of connection to them, it’s mostly been through Zooms and phone calls, emails, text messages, and things like that."
The players have also been able to stay connected just by being in the same area. Different from some other Penn teams, a vast majority of Penn men’s lacrosse players are currently in Philadelphia.
The seniors and the sophomores have an off-campus house right next to each other, and the juniors have a house just a block and a half away from them. Additionally, many of the freshmen on the team have acquired apartments in Philadelphia. In total, 43 players on the 45-man roster are living somewhere in Philadelphia.
With almost everyone in one place, the Quakers are looking to make improvements coming into the 2021 season, particularly on defense despite the loss of two starters.
“I think part of that is credit to coach [Casey] Ikeda, who tweaked the defense a little bit over the summer,” Murphy said. “So, I think we’ll be improved there. I think [junior goalie] Patrick Burkinshaw is poised for a very good year, especially if we can play a little better defense in front of him.”
Offensively, Penn has almost everyone back from last season, so there is less to change in that area with senior and junior leaders such as Lulley, Ben Bedard, Mitch Bartolo, and Sam Handley ready to perform at a high level under the direction of assistant coach Mike Abbott.
Murphy said that the big question going into the season is at the faceoff X, where the team lost Kyle Gallagher, but with the recent rule changes, he expects just about everybody to be on an equal playing field in that regard.
Going into the season, the Quakers have lofty ambitions for what they expect to be a big year.
“We want to win a national championship. That’s our goal, and I think it’d be crazy if your goal was anything other than that,” Lulley said. “So, we want to be the best we can be, and I think that the fact that we have so many guys in Philly … shows how much we care about each other.”
If the Quakers can put it all together in a season where they’re still the reigning Ivy League champions, don’t be surprised if that national championship is in the cards for them.
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