Taylyn Stadler can recall the day she fell in love with Penn as though it were written down in front of her.
“I remember coming to campus and turning to my dad and being like ‘oh my God, Dad, this is the place,’” she said. “I was told ‘when you know, you know,’ and I knew it right away. I committed on October 4th, because four is my lucky number.”
The Penn women's lacrosse junior from Woodbury, N.Y. played and started in every game for the Quakers as a freshman and ranked fourth on the team in both points and goals scored. She was a consistent force for the Red and Blue, scoring at least one goal in all but one game, and proving highlights including a hat trick at Columbia.
Her first experience with Penn lacrosse was less lucky, however.
“The fall of my freshman year was a little rocky, kind of like a rollercoaster,” Stadler admitted. “There were a lot of ups and downs athletically, academically, and personally.”
As a student of the game for nearly her entire childhood, Stadler had never left the house to be on her own for extended periods of time, so she struggled a bit with the adjustment to college life. It couldn't have been made easier by simultaneously needing to adjust to a higher level of play on the lacrosse field.
“I literally felt like I didn't know how to play lacrosse when I started playing in college, because the pace is so different,” she said. “It’s faster. The girls are much stronger and faster and it was intimidating. So when I was this little freshman, I was definitely intimidated.”
It was the first time in her successful athletic career that Stadler felt that she might not win a starting role on the team. She had started every game of her high school career, serving as captain of her team, becoming a five-year letter winner, and being named an All-American as a senior to go along with an All-American Honorable Mention from her junior year.
“I am a very competitive person,” Stadler said. “And not starting was not okay with me. I wanted to start. So I worked my butt off. I came back in the spring and, in my opinion, I started doing very well. I started to kill it, and I earned that starting position.”
Stadler could hardly believe it when she was named a starter.
“It was a very surreal moment for me when I stepped on the field for the first time because I was looking back, and I felt like I came so far,” she said. “I felt like I had it in me. But I needed to build on that confidence and find it in myself and display it on the field in a positive way. I couldn’t be afraid to make mistakes. And I think that our coaching staff, from the time that I stepped in as a freshman, have been so supportive. Obviously, they are hard at times and they give it to me straight, but I love them. I love that honest aspect of them because when I do something good, they make sure that I know that, and when I do something bad, they tell me how to fix it.”
After her successful first season, she was deftly avoiding a sophomore slump. Through the first five games of her sophomore season, she added 10 more goals. And then, well …
“We were supposed to go to Duke the week that everything happened,” Stadler remembered. “In the beginning of the week, we were told ‘you can’t fly to Duke anymore,’ so we planned to drive down. Everyone was kind of bummed about it, but honestly still pretty positive because we were like ‘okay, the virus is getting worse and kind of scary now, but at least we’re still going.’ So that was maybe a day and a half of knowing that we were driving and then we practiced. We had a great, awesome practice. And I remember we were walking down to the cars and my coaches were like ‘oh, actually, let’s just have a quick meeting in the coaching building.’ And then they broke the news to us.”
Stadler recalls feeling shocked and upset, but something else came to mind.
“I felt like I couldn’t be too sad for what was going on from my position, because I looked at the seniors who have been amazing leaders and amazing players – Gabby Rosenzweig, Erin Barry, Chelsea Kibler,” she said. “They were amazing, and I looked at them crying. I was like ‘oh my God, this is the last lacrosse they would probably ever play.’ It was so hard to digest because so quickly after that we had to be off campus and go home.”
Despite the gut punch that the cancellation of Ivy League sports was to so many athletes, Stadler has hope for the future.
“The Big 10, the ACC, they were able to do it with football,” Stadler said. “And there are ways we can figure out how to progress with lacrosse, with softball, with whatever spring sports can play this season. There are ways to do it safely. I’m optimistic that they’ll be able to find those ways and I’ll be able to have somewhat of a junior season. I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to play with my friends, and hopefully the seniors will be able to have that one last hurrah. It will definitely be something memorable.”