Just five games into the 2020 season, junior attacker Dylan Gergar of Penn men’s lacrosse has already exceeded his goal and point totals from his freshman season. He played all 16 games in 2019, putting up impressive numbers off the bench, but the introduction to his sophomore season felt different.
His name and number, 40, appeared on the starting lineup in all five matches before the season’s hasty conclusion. By the time he stepped off the field for the last time competitively in 2020, he ranked first in goals and second in points on the team. Nationally, he became a name to remember, ranking 11th in the country for average goals per game when he added another four against St. Joseph’s — the last match before the cancellation of competition.
Despite the unexpected pause in the lacrosse season after never missing a year of play since he first picked up the stick, Gergar has maintained his enthusiasm for the welcome return to competition when it finally arrives.
With two older siblings, Gergar grew up in the midst of sports.
“When I turned six, I started playing lacrosse, basketball, and soccer,” Gergar said. “And I always had an affinity for lacrosse more than any other sport.”
His beginnings in competitive lacrosse were at a local county league where he played on a team with friends and competed against neighboring schools.
“Just some of my oldest memories playing with my best friends and my cousins — we all played on the same team together — was when our dads were the coaches. It felt like a family,” Gergar said.
“I remember our first game that we played, we actually lost 10 to nothing because we weren't very good at the time,” Gergar said. “But after the game we all huddled up, and we thought it was the best thing ever. Then we just saw constant improvement after that, and we ended up winning the whole league that year. So it was just cool to see, from our first game to getting blown out, to winning it all at the end of the year. That fast sudden improvement was pretty awesome.”
Gergar pursued football and lacrosse into high school, where he lettered in both sports. While he contemplated playing football in college, he grew more confident in lacrosse when he began receiving interest from recruiters his sophomore year.
“That was kind of my calling to say, okay, let's focus more on lacrosse and just play football for fun and just to be out there with my friends,” Gergar said.
He played at one of the best high school lacrosse programs in the country, Severn School in Maryland. He eventually captained the team and was named a United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) All-American as a senior.
Despite deciding to pursue lacrosse in college, Gergar was unlikely to choose Penn at first. In his sophomore season, he had committed to Lehigh University.
However, his junior season presented him a chance to reconsider, since it was his best high school season thus far with numbers good enough impress recruiters in the likes of Penn State, Duke, Notre Dame, and ultimately, Penn.
“My dad kind of guided me into seeing other schools, just to make sure that Lehigh was the right place for me,” Gergar said. “And on one Saturday afternoon, my dad and I came up to the University of Pennsylvania and took a visit, and I just instantly fell in love with it.”
Gergar had been contemplating his decision about Penn far before his visit to campus. And with the chance to explore his talents in lacrosse and academics at an institution like Penn, his visit was enough to push his reconsideration.
“And when I first met the guys on the team, I knew this was the place for me. And the coaching staff, I thought it was all great. So later that day I made the decision to de-commit from Lehigh and commit to the University of Pennsylvania. Then from my junior year on, I was coming here and I've never looked back since.”
Once Gergar arrived to play as a Quaker, his impact on the team was overwhelmingly positive.
“He just seemed very upbeat from an interpersonal standpoint, and seemed to have a nice way about him that you felt like he would be a good addition to the team and the locker room,” head coach Mike Murphy said.
Murphy’s values of maintaining a family mentality within the team were familiar to Gergar’s beginnings in the sport, playing with friends and family at the local county league.
“I think the bond that our team has as brothers is different than any team I've ever been on,” Gergar said. “When I first stepped foot in the locker room and got to meet my teammates as brothers, it was a really grounding feeling. As soon as I did that, on day one as a freshman, I knew that it was different; just the energy that our locker room gives off, and our senior leadership, and our combination of our younger guys.”
Out on the field, Gergar quickly developed a habit of scoring against Penn’s toughest opponents. In his first season, he tallied hat tricks against Saint Joseph’s, Yale, and Harvard, and he continued this trend into his breakout sophomore season. He started every game as an attacker for Penn, totaling 19 goals and four assists.
“I remember seeing him on the field for the first time, and he was a dynamic offensive player with an ability to generate offense and score goals,” Murphy said. “His scoring ability and creative ability are his greatest assets. I think he's got a very high ceiling for what he's going to do up on the lacrosse field.”
While working to improve his game, Gergar has not let go of his signature positivity within the team.
“He makes everything more fun. He has so much enthusiasm,” Murphy said. "Even with practices now — where we’re kind of waiting to see when we're going to get to play a game — he still makes that enjoyable because of his upbeat attitude and enthusiasm.”
“I try and bring a lot of positive energy, be loud for the guys, get them amped up for practice," Gergar said. "Maybe some days that some guys aren't ready for practice, or they might not have the energy that they need going into practice — I just try and make sure I go around to most guys on the team and talk to them, and get them ready for practice, and make sure they're excited.”
Now, with his senior season approaching, Gergar has also grown to adopt the responsibility of being an upperclassman on the team, stepping into the same leadership role he admired as a freshman coming into Penn.
“I just tried to be the guy who kept it light and made sure everybody's having a good time and brought a lot of energy,” Gergar said. “And now I'm coming into a more upperclassman role who has a bit more leadership responsibilities."
Training has resumed for Penn Athletics, but competition for men’s lacrosse has yet to be announced. In spite of an unclear season ahead, Gergar is working to maintain the same rigor and motivation of his past two seasons.
“I think my teammates do a great job of helping me stay grounded,” Gergar said. “Even though we're not playing games right now, we're practicing six days a week. And it's really good feeling knowing that even though we're not playing games right now, or we're trying to schedule games, we're still out there getting better every single day in preparation for the games we’ll play this year — whether we play games or not — and then the 2022 season.”