In the first few weeks after graduating, most of the Class of 2023 were preparing to start jobs, or enjoying a few months of freedom before taking the next steps in their academic or professional careers. But for three members of Penn men's lacrosse's graduating class, the next step of their athletic journey was just beginning.
Midfielder Sam Handley, short-stick defensive midfielder Piper Bond, and long-stick midfielder BJ Farrare have all joined the Premier Lacrosse League in the weeks following the end of the NCAA season and their college graduation. Handley and Bond were drafted in the first and third rounds, respectively, of the PLL College Draft on May 9, while Farrare was signed as an undrafted free agent by Redwoods Lacrosse Club in late May.
All three former Quakers admitted that switching from the collegiate game to the pros was a big transition. Not only are there rule changes, such as a faster shot clock, but Bond acknowledged that the level of play is higher in the PLL.
"Everybody out there is a first-team, second-team, or third-team All-American, so the level of skill is just through the roof," Bond said. "Not to say that we didn't play a very competitive schedule, and the guys on our [Penn] team are also very good, but everybody here is the cream of the crop."
However, this group is elite in their own right. The trio were named USILA All-Americans this year, with Handley being on the first team, and Bond and Farrare gaining recognition as honorable mentions for their work during the 2023 season. Each were also named first-team All-Ivy.
Another advantage they have is that they've had an incredibly short break between seasons, giving them less time to lose fitness.
"I'm still in pretty good shape," Farrare said. "Playing and coming straight from the [NCAA] season was definitely a positive for me and the other young guys coming from college."
Despite the quick turnaround, there was still a scouting process where head coach Mike Murphy remembered "a pretty good number of conversations with all the coaches in the [PLL] about those guys in the weeks leading up to the draft."
Throughout the season, Handley knew that he was "supposed to go in a high range" and met with PLL coaches virtually to see which teams he fit well with. The Portland, Ore. native was ultimately the fourth overall pick — and the first midfielder taken — by Chrome Lacrosse Club.
But it wasn't just an impressive final year that built up Handley's pedigree. Murphy recalled how he was one of many highly-touted recruits who contributed to the Quakers from day one. "Handley was a three-time first-team All-American, and if he played all four years, [I'm] pretty certain he would have been a four-time first-team All-American," he said. "The number of times that's happened in the modern era of lacrosse, you can count on one hand."
Farrare was also immensely successful in the Red and Blue, with multiple All-Ivy and All-America selections to his name. He finished his Penn career last month with 131 ground balls and 45 caused turnovers, making him "one of, if not the best, long-stick midfielders in college lacrosse the last couple of years," according to Murphy.
Despite his accomplishments, Farrare wasn't drafted — instead, he was signed to the Redwoods less than a week before training camp began. "I was fortunate enough to play well and make the team, so I was really excited about that," Farrare said.
The trio will join other Quakers playing in the PLL, including 2021 Wharton graduate Sean Lulley and 2015 Wharton graduate Matt McMahon. Bond said that he interacted with both players during training camp, as McMahon "plays defense as well, so he helped bring me under his wing a little bit and was showing me the ropes."
As Murphy sees it, Handley, Bond, and Farrare are joining a tradition of Penn athletes in the PLL that he hopes to continue going forward. He especially sees attacker Dylan Gergar, who graduated last month but missed most of his senior season due to an injury, to have a good shot of making that league in 2024.
From the first two weeks of the PLL season, Handley has one goal and one assist, while Bond has contributed one assist for Archers Lacrosse Club, who are off to a 2-0 start. All PLL games can be viewed on the ESPN family of networks.