With two classes of rookies, plus an additional year of graduate students returning to play, the vastly varying makeup of rosters presented unordinary opportunities for many Penn athletes — another result of the unique circumstances for sports competition in 2021.
Current senior athletes at Ivy League institutions, who have lost their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be permitted to compete for their respective schools next year as full-time graduate students.
As of now, this exception only applies to current seniors whose seasons were suspended by the pandemic. To qualify, students must be admitted as graduate students to degree-seeking programs through “regular channels.”
Last week, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee presidents from each Ancient Eight school circulated a survey meant to gauge student-athletes' opinions on graduate school eligibility, per the request of Ivy League policy members and athletic directors.
The decision comes at a time in which many Penn athletes have already entered the transfer portal, or even enrolled at other institutions as graduate students.
Within a week of the Ivy League’s decision to extend eligibility to current seniors, senior Andrew Douglas of Penn men's squash applied to Penn’s Fels Institute of Government. In a matter of a month, Douglas was on track for another season of play and an opportunity to further cultivate his passion for political science.
“I had in my head an idea of which school I wanted to apply to, and I knew that it would be Fels. But when the decision came out of the Ivy League, I just jumped to apply within the next week,” Douglas said. “So next year, I think, is going to be a really cool year for me. I'm excited to redefine who I am and shape what role I want squash to play in my life.”
The extra year of eligibility will be Douglas' opportunity to make up for a lost season, but also Penn men's squash's chance to resume its highly aimed goals with Douglas leading the team.
After spending time at both Penn and Western Carolina University, Penn quarterback Ryan Glover has chosen to continue his college football career at the University of California.
Through a graduate transfer, Glover will use his final year of eligibility to suit up for the Golden Bears this upcoming season.
“It was a pretty complex process I went through,” he said. “I graduated a semester early and traditionally, Penn doesn’t allow grad students to play football. That’s one of the main reasons I needed to transfer from Penn after the Ivy League canceled their season in the fall as well as spring."
Without Ryan Glover, Penn football must decide a new starting quarterback, with five quarterbacks currently on the roster.
Additionally, 57 new players will start their Quaker careers this season, as COVID-19 shuttered any chance of the 2020 recruits to play.
In its first match at Rhodes Field since Nov. 16, 2019, Penn men’s soccer dominated Colgate 3-0 with its upperclassmen paving the way. Graduate student Joey Bhangdia and senior midfielder Ben Stitz spearheaded the attack, combining for three goals and an assist.
Senior forwards Matt Leigh and Ben Stitz played in remarkable harmony with graduate student RC Williams to put the Quakers ahead by two goals.
Bhangdia added another goal at 70 minutes to increase the Quaker lead to 3-0, assisted by Stitz and freshman Charlie Gaffney.
Bhangdia, the leading scorer for the Quakers in 2019, picked up where he left off as leader of Penn's offense. The Quakers finished the match with six shots on goal to Colgate's one.
In 2018, former Penn field hockey team captain Ava Rosati totaled six shutouts and 62 saves; the next year, she marked 1,007 minutes and 67 total saves.
Now in Rosati’s place is sophomore Sabien Paumen, a Netherlands native who, until this season, had never played a minute of collegiate field hockey.
Rosati’s departure left Penn without any veteran goalies in the program. Despite this, Paumen’s coaches have been impressed with her maturity.
“For Sabien, one of the things that really gives credit to her is [that], for a majority of the games, she just has really good confidence in herself,” goalkeeper coach Sydney Rhodes said. “She’s very level-headed, so she doesn’t really get frantic as easily. If a goal does go in, there’s not much effect on her gameplay, which I think, especially for young goalies, is really hard sometimes.”
Despite 10-hour days and challenging playing conditions, the inexperienced Penn women's golf team's weekend invitational at the Yale Fall Intercollegiate was marked by career-best finishes.
Freshman Natalie Cao and junior Selina Li both shot an even-par 71. In addition, sophomore Debby Chang and freshman Eunice Kim both shot a 74.
“We had a good talk about the mental game last week," coach Mark Anderson said, "and we’re just focusing on trying to be a little more consistent with our playing.”
Get used to the quarterback wearing No. 4 for Penn football — he has a name we might be sayin’ for a while.
Making only his second collegiate start, freshman Aidan Sayin broke out against the Brown Bears at Franklin Field, leading an offense that couldn’t be stopped, as the Quakers (3-4, 1-3 Ivy) routed the Bears (2-5, 1-3) by a score of 45-17.
In these unusual times, being a freshman may be more advantageous for Sayin. He was playing high school football last fall in a competitive California conference, when most of his opponents were on an Ivy League bench.
"Aidan's just a very mature kid," Penn coach Ray Priore said. "He's got that poise and that charisma, and that way about him where he just plays. Some people have to think about it, but [for him] it's just natural."
The last time senior guard Mia Lakstigala played a full season of basketball was in the 2018-19 season, when she was just a freshman.
In the absence of collegiate play, Lakstigala had the chance to work on her game with a future teammate: sophomore forward Jordan Obi. Both had moved to California around the same time.
“We were able to go to the parks and play pickup against guys. And I think them being stronger and faster really helped me improve my game,” Lakstigala said.
The pickup games, however, pale in comparison to playing alongside her teammates in the Palestra, as the Quakers will try to reclaim the Ivy League title in her senior season.
“This year has been really nice to finally wear a Penn jersey again,” Lakstigala said. “It’s really helped me value every single game because nothing is guaranteed, so now I have a whole new perspective on being grateful for every time I get to play.”