Penn men’s lacrosse phenom Sean Lulley has been arguably one of the most prolific and instrumental components of the team during the past few seasons. As an attacker, his skill with the ball has made him an integral part of a strong Penn offense that has led solid title-challenging competition.
In 2020 alone, he tallied 14 goals and 16 assists in the first five games and was well on track to his best season ever. However, what seemed to be the start to a strong junior campaign was suddenly stopped on March 11, 2020, as the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic started to upend the world. Despite his efforts to continue to practice and stay in shape to quickly resume, that pause started a stop in competition that took away the better part of two seasons.
Despite losing those two seasons, Lulley continued his studies and graduated in the Class of 2021. Lulley, however, knew that he had more lacrosse left in him and felt that it was more prudent to exercise his final years of eligibility rather than leaving school to go work. Now, he'll head to Duke, where he'll be able to finish out his lacrosse career in the way he intends to.
“I knew that I still wanted to play lacrosse, given the COVID situation having two seasons taken away from us," he said. "The NCAA gave us two years of eligibility back, and something that I figured out early on with Coach Murphy and my parents was that it was in my best interest to play lacrosse another year. It didn’t really make sense for me to graduate and go work right away, the thought process being that I could work my whole life if I wanted to, but I can’t play lacrosse forever.
"If I have the opportunity to play another year at a really high level, why not take advantage of that."
Despite graduating and leaving the program, it was apparent how much Lulley appreciated his time at Penn in Coach Mike Murphy’s program, as he heralded his time at Penn as being "the best four years of [his] life." He said that, ideally, he would have loved to have stayed at Penn, but with the Ivy League's restrictive set of rules, it would be impossible.
Back in 2020, per Ivy League restrictions, graduate students were forbidden from participating in athletics. As such, Lulley looked to his options in the transfer portal, entering as one of the best offensive players available. He viewed his time in the portal as being incredibly fast-paced and exciting.
“It was a little hectic, in a good way," Lulley said. "I think I was a little taken back by how quickly the whole process moved. I wasn’t expecting to have the timeline I had. As soon I got into the portal, it starts to become pretty busy and I wasn’t necessarily ready for that. So, it was a little hectic at first, but that’s always a good problem to have. That means something is going well. It was a new recruiting process for me. It felt like I was in high school again talking to coaches and going through that whole process."
After conversations with coaches and a recruiting process, Lulley ended up choosing Duke, a team that he scored six goals against approximately three weeks before the pandemic began. He believed that Duke would best position himself to continue to strive for his lacrosse career aspirations.
“My goals are to develop as a player, as a person, and as a member of the team," Lulley said. "I want to become a better student, I want to become a better person, and I want to become a better lacrosse player. I thought that Duke was a really good fit for me in those three aspects. My best friend from home is on the team at Duke as well so that made it an easier decision for me knowing I’ll have him there and that I already know some of the guys.
"I just want to continue to grow as a person, as a player, and as a student, which is what Penn has offered me these four years, and I was looking to continue that as well."
In regard to the Penn experience, Lulley expects to miss the people he was with the most. He said that Coach Murphy has been "an unbelievable mentor" to him, as he'd known Murphy since he recruited him in high school. In addition to Murphy, Lulley will struggle to drift away from all the various coaches, strength coaches, and athletic trainers that he got to work with.
As COVID-19 has caused many athletic programs to cancel games and has hit the Ivy League especially hard, Lulley envisions a large number of athletes entering into the transfer portal to exercise their full eligibility, similar to him.
“I think so, I think especially with the Ivy League, not being able to be a graduate student and play a sport [was] pretty tough and pretty challenging to work around as a student-athlete," Lulley said. "I think you saw it last year with a bunch of Ivy League lacrosse players going to other conferences for a fifth year. I think that’s probably going to be the trend moving forward for the next three or four years, but I’m not entirely [sure] how that will work.
"I think COVID has definitely opened up a lot of different options because each conference has different rules and regulations you have to work with."
While at Penn, the Melville, N.Y. native scored 39 goals and 43 assists in 37 games, a stellar run for playing just under two and a half seasons. As such, Lulley will certainly be someone to watch in Duke men's lacrosse's upcoming seasons.