Category Archives: Senior Spotlight

Senior Spotlight: Giulia Giordano

A day after playing her final lacrosse game at the University of Pennsylvania, Giulia Giordano experienced an even deeper sense of finality: she walked at commencement. Those two experiences, back-to-back, may have been overwhelming for the now Penn graduate, but it’s what happened leading up to then that defined Giordano’s experience at Penn. As a very good player on the women’s lacrosse team – she finished her career with 127 career points (79 goals and 48 assists), which ranks 10th on the program’s all-time scoring list, and just today was named first-team all-region by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association – Giordano helped Penn rise to national prominence. In Giordano’s first three years, Penn advanced to at least the NCAA quarterfinals. And this season, despite graduating many program stalwarts, the Quakers returned to the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Duke in the first round on May 15 (a day before commencement). As we like to do with our Senior Spotlight posts, the Gazette caught up with Giordano to talk about her experiences at Penn, both at Franklin Field and away from it, and her thoughts on graduation:

On what it meant playing lacrosse for Penn: “I can’t imagine being at Penn without lacrosse. It was such a great experience. I’ll have these friends forever.”

On her decision to come to Penn: The Moorestown, N.J. native originally planned to go to college far away from home, much like her sister, Cara, who had a very good lacrosse career at Vanderbilt. But she was swayed after Penn head coach Karin Brower Corbett came to her house and later when she toured the campus. “After visiting a couple of other schools, I realized I wanted a city school. I loved there was a campus but still a city environment. That’s Penn’s big selling point.”

Time devoted to lacrosse over the past four years: In season, about six hours per day. In the offseason, about four. “It’s definitely hard because you’re constantly going back and forth to the field in the fall.”

Favorite part about college lacrosse: The traditions with the team, even when those “traditions” that are made up on the spot. Before the game against Princeton in the Ivy League Tournament, for instance, “we turned the lights off and we’re just dancing in a huge circle. It was so spontaneous.”

Best lacrosse moment at Penn: Beating Northwestern in 2008, her freshman year. At the time, Northwestern was ranked No. 1 in the nation and had not lost in 36 straight games. (Penn, though, later lost to them in the NCAA championship game.)

On playing in the NCAA tournament all four years: It was certainly exciting and rewarding, especially qualifying for NCAAs this season, a feat no one thought a depleted Penn squad could accomplish. “We were definitely disappointed we didn’t get as far as we have been but we beat some really great teams this year. I’m proud of our team. The class before us was amazing and we lost of great players. We were young this year but I feel like some of the girls really developed. I was happy to be a part of it and I can’t wait to see what they do in the next couple of years.”

Giordano became the 10th all-time leading scorer at Penn this season -- which was news to her

On entering the Penn record books: “I didn’t even know that. That’s really awesome. I love how Penn takes its tradition so seriously. It’s an honor.”

Funniest lacrosse moment at Penn: We all knew Ali DeLuca, Penn’s All-American star who graduated last year, could play lacrosse very well. Apparently, she could also dance, as she showed before the 2010 Ivy League Tournament. “Ali put all of her Ivy League championship rings on and played the Beyoncé song Single Ladies and did the whole dance.” DeLuca’s message was that the Quakers needed a fourth Ivy championship ring – which they got.

Favorite Ivy League team to play: Princeton because of the rivalry and Dartmouth because “everyone picked them to beat us this year.” Penn, though, defeated the Big Green.

Favorite part of Penn away from Franklin Field: Being a part of the sorority Alpha Chi Omega and the Friars Senior Society both opened a lot of doors.

Favorite sport besides lacrosse: To watch, football. “My family is all huge Eagles fans.” To play, field hockey. Before coming to Penn, she was a star play for Moorestown High.

Favorite class: French. She studied the language at different levels every year.

Favorite campus eatery: Distrito

Thoughts on graduation: Losing an NCAA tournament game the day before graduating was a difficult experience, but walking in commencement beside many friends and teammates helped dull the pain. Plus, she loved Denzel Washington’s commencement speech. “Graduation was pretty amazing. The loss was sad but we didn’t mourn over it.”

Future plans: For now, she’s back in her New Jersey home, taking some time to rest and relax because “lacrosse was sort of like a job. My parents are giving me a little leeway on that.” After a few weeks though, the sociology major plans on “getting serious” about applying for jobs in marketing and sales. One more thing: “I loved the girls I live with, but I’m excited to finally be in a clean house.”

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Filed under Senior Spotlight, Women's Lacrosse

Senior Spotlight: Scott Giffin

The 2010-11 wrestling season was a disappointing one for Scott Giffin – but only by his lofty standards. Battling injuries, the Penn senior lost his first two matches at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, which were held in Philadelphia. Still, no one can take away what Giffin did throughout his illustrious career at Penn, which included becoming the 24th All-American in program history a year ago by finishing seventh at the 2010 NCAA Championships – a moment, he says, that justified his decision to transfer from the University of Michigan back in 2007. Here’s more from one of Penn’s most prolific senior athletes, who told the Gazette, among other things, all about the sport he almost played, the decision that changed his life and the big news he got just this week:

On his decision to come to Penn: He liked Michigan but decided to transfer after redshirting the 2006-07 season because his chances of wrestling there looked bleak in the short-term. Penn, located 20 minutes from where he grew up in South Jersey, would give him the competitive opportunity he was looking for. “Both academically and athletically, Penn was a great fit for me,” he said. “It’s Penn – you really can’t lose.”

Time devoted to wrestling over the past five years: It’s hard to put a time on it since, in addition to the daily practices, there are all of his own workouts plus the constant battle of staying at the right weight. “It’s been endless. I started wrestling when I was five years old. It’s been a full-time life commitment, rather than just a seasonal thing.”

Favorite part of college wrestling: The NCAA Championships. “I got to see Big 10 football and got to see a Michigan-Penn State game for my recruiting visit – front row, 40 yard line. That’s great but I think the NCAA (wrestling) tournament’s atmosphere is so wild and crazy. Anything can happen. For me, it was so exciting to be a part of.”

Best wrestling moment: Finishing seventh in the nation in the 174-pound weight class last season and earning All-America honors. “For me, it finally made sense why I left Michigan to be here. … There are a lot of great wrestlers who come in and never get to be All-American. It’s crazy I get to call myself an All-American. It’s very rewarding.”

Becoming an All-American was when "it finally made sense" for Giffin

Funniest wrestling moment: The bus rides and the jokes before and after practice. “The whole environment makes it worth it every day.”

Favorite Ivy League team to wrestle against: No hesitation – Cornell. The Big Red are a national force and have captured nine straight Ivy League championships. “We never beat them when I was here, but the rivalry runs very deep.”

Favorite part of Penn away from wrestling: The overall atmosphere and the warmth he felt from the rest of the student body after transferring. “You can meet people outside the athletic community here. At Michigan, that really wasn’t an option.”

Favorite sport besides wrestling: Football. The diehard Eagles fan played the sport his first year at Eastern (N.J.) High before giving it up to focus on wrestling. “I think if I were another two inches taller I might be playing football somewhere.”

Favorite class: The PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) major wasn’t in Wharton but found accounting to be the most intriguing of any of his classes.

Favorite restaurant in Philly: Fogo de Chao, an all-you-can eat Brazilian steakhouse in Center City. “It’s fun going with a bunch of guys on the team and basically robbing them blind of all their food. Fifty bucks is just not fair for them.”

Thoughts on graduation: A lot more excitement than nerves. “Being a fifth-year senior is different than being a fourth-year senior. All my friends from home have been working for close to a year know. I’m looking forward to being a part of that.”

Future plans: On Monday, the same day as this interview, he signed an offer letter to work at a consulting company in Baltimore called Invotex. “I was really freaking out about for a long time trying to figure it out. I’m happy everything came together.”


Filed under Senior Spotlight, Wrestling

Senior Spotlight: Sarah Friedman

What made Sarah Friedman C’11 such a good soccer player at Penn? “I always loved it,” the Quakers’ central midfielder said. “Most people get burned out. I never lost it.” You can say “it” was her incredible ability to create goals as Friedman will graduate as Penn’s all-time leader in assists with 30. Friedman, a central midfielder who set the school’s single-season record for assists in 2008 with 15, was also a four-time All-Ivy Player and the team’s only unanimous first team selection this season after helping the Quakers capture the outright conference championship. What else is there to know about Friedman’s four-year career, both on and off the field? Here’s a little taste:

On her decision come to Penn: She was recruited by head coach Darren Ambrose since her sophomore year in high school. Being close to her home in Villanova was also a deciding factor. “I was supposed to go on other visits to other schools, but when I got here I decided I didn’t need to visit anywhere else officially.”

Time devoted to soccer over the past four years: A lot. “I missed out on getting work done sometimes. But it’d definitely been worth it.”

Favorite part of college soccer: Winning two Ivy League championships and spending time with her teammates. “Those are different kinds of relationships that you don’t have with anyone else.”

Best soccer moment: Again, it’s the two Ivy League championships that bookended his college career – the first coming first in 2007 and the second last month. “As a freshman, it was really exciting. But once you’re a senior, you understand all the rivalries in the league and how much you want to beat each team. It was special as a freshman but it took the rest of the time to figure how much it really meant to win.”

Friedman helped the Quakers capture two Ivy League titles

How her teammates would describe her: “Pretty intense – at least when I play. Off the field, I’m more laid back. But I get really into soccer. I’ve always wanted to win. I hate losing.”

Favorite Ivy League team to play: A slight lean towards Princeton, although “I like beating all of them.”

Favorite sport besides soccer: Lacrosse and basketball were the two sports she played besides soccer at Friends Central. “We did a pickup basketball game once as a workout (at Penn). It was pretty funny. I’m not as good at basketball as I am at soccer.”

Favorite class: Abnormal Psychology.

Favorite restaurant: Pod or Jimmy John’s, although she concedes the latter is not really a restaurant. Still, “I order there way too much. It’s embarrassing.”

Thoughts on graduation: “I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to leave college. I don’t want to grow up.”

Future plans: Unclear but possibly grad school. “I used to want to go play (soccer) in Europe, but I kind of changed my mind about that. I think I should be a real person.”

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Filed under Senior Spotlight, Women's Soccer

Senior Spotlight: Conor Turley

The Penn football team has its highest national ranking in six years. The men’s soccer team is ranked No. 15 in the country and is undefeated in Ivy League play. The volleyball team has won four straight. We are very much in the heart of the fall sports schedule and many big things appear to be on the horizon for those squads.

But when Oct. 15 rolls around – the first official day for basketball practice for teams around the country – it’s hard not to peek around the corner to the upcoming winter sports season. This week I caught up with Conor Turley, who along with Zack Rosen and Jack Eggleston, will serve as a captain for the 2010-11 Penn men’s basketball team. Turley doesn’t boast the same kind of numbers as the team’s two other captains, but his age (because of a two-year Mormon mission following high school, the senior is 24) and his competitiveness (he broke fingers in both hands during last season’s upset win over Cornell) make him a natural leader.

Here’s our interview:

DZ: So how have the first few official practices been?

CT: I think everything has been going well. People have been working hard. We’ve been bringing a lot of energy and are willing to learn from the coaches. We’re preparing ourselves for a good year.

Were you surprised to be named a captain?

A little, maybe. I was not expecting that. The past three years I’ve been here, we’ve voted on captains and the way Coach (Jerome) Allen did it, the coaches just named the captains. I was not expecting that process.

I watched the video with Brian Seltzer (below) and they called you the old guy and a dirty player sometimes. What kind of player do you think you are?

I wouldn’t say I’m a dirty player. I definitely am the oldest guy on the team though. We were just joking around, having a good time.

You broke fingers in both hands diving for a loose ball against Cornell – does that show what kind of player you are?

I think it does. I think it defines how I play. I try not to reserve anything when I play. I try to play as hard as I can and that’s what I’m looking to do this year.

With you, Jack Eggleston, Andreas Schreiber and Mike Howlett, among others, all back for another year, will this frontcourt have more depth and talent than in your first three years?

I’m very comfortable with our depth. I think we’ll do well in frontcourt position, knock on wood. Hopefully we can all stay healthy.

After a 6-22 record last year, what specifically do you think will change for the 2010-2011 season?

Well obviously we’re starting the year with a new coach, so the preparation for the season is inherently different because we have a new man at the helm. I’d say that’s the biggest difference.

Obviously a big problem the last couple of years have been the injuries. Are people looking healthy so far this season?

For the most part, we’re healthy at this time. You can talk specifically to other people about that. I don’t want to divulge any information that may not be public at this time. But compared to last year, we’re a lot more healthy and we’re looking to stay healthy.

Which of the newcomers should fans be most excited about?

I don’t think anyone has proven themselves yet. We’ve only had a couple of practices but a couple guys definitely have an opportunity to help us this year. Hopefully people continue to work hard and some of the newcomers can make a name for themselves.

"Anything short of an Ivy title will be a complete disappointment."

Do you feel like the oldest guy on the team and does that come with a sense of responsibility to be a leader?

I wouldn’t say just because of my age that necessarily carries leadership with it. But I do feel like I have certain leadership qualities and I’ll try to utilize those to help the team this year.

Is it Ivy title or bust for the seniors?

Absolutely. Anything short of an Ivy League title will be a complete disappointment. That’s our goal this year. That’s what we’ve been working for in the summer and in the fall. And in my eyes, that’s what we’re gonna get. There’s no other option.

What is Nov. 13 going to be like for that first game at the Palestra?

Last year we played Davidson, and it was our first game under Coach Allen. We were not happy with the result of the game but hopefully we’ll do better this year. We’ve been preparing. I think it’s gonna be a great game. I think we’ll come out and play hard and be successful.

Do you expect the atmosphere at the Palestra to improve this year?

Hopefully it will. The Palestra is the best place I’ve ever played. I’ve played at Cameroon Indoor, at ARCO Arena, and the Palestra is my favorite place I’ve ever played. A packed house at the Palestra is the best environment anyone can ask for. I think the atmosphere will be awesome this year.

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Filed under Men's Basketball, Senior Spotlight

Senior Spotlight: Tom Grandieri

On the same day he walked in Penn’s commencement ceremony, Tom Grandieri C’10 was honored at the Ivy League Baseball Player of the Year. Even better, he’ll now be featured in this season’s final installment of “Senior Spotlight”. There seems to be no better choice than Grandieri, who led Penn and the Ivy League in average (.458), hits (38), runs (25) and RBIs (25) within league play this season. The Villanova transfer also broke the school’s single-season mark for hits (71) and doubles (22) on his way to becoming just the program’s fourth player of the year selection ever. And his brother, Brian, of course, was a very good basketball player from 2005-08. Here are some final thoughts from Tom as he leaves Penn after three terrific years on the diamond:

On his decision to come to Penn: He transferred here during his sophomore year in 2008 because of how much his brother enjoyed playing basketball for the Quakers and also because Villanova wanted to use him as a pitcher while he preferred outfield. “Somehow, crazily, it all worked out and I made it here. I was able to get the transfer in at the nick of time and a lot of good things happened. It was the best decision I’ve made to this point.”

Time devoted to baseball over the past three years: About five hours per day, six days a week. “It sounds like a lot but it was not much of a hassle. It was a good break from the hustle and bustle of everything else.”

Favorite part of college baseball: Forming bonds with teammates, as well as the competition. “You had to bring it every single day.”

Grandieri is the first Quaker since 2003 to be the Ivy League Player of the Year

Best baseball moment: Coming back from a 10-0 deficit in the final inning against Lehigh to win 11-10 last season. Even more remarkable, the Quakers were being no-hit though the first six frames until the seventh-inning explosion. “I had never heard or seen or been a part of a game like that.”

Funniest baseball moment: This one is an instant classic. “There was a no-doubt about it homer to left and [left fielder] Jeremy Maas just did a dead sprint, jumped into the fence and hit his head on the pole. And the ball ended up about 80 feet over the fence.” Maas, who Grandieri says jokingly doesn’t have much going on upstairs, was then asked the inning and the score, getting both answers wrong. “Our coach and trainer looked at each other and said, ‘That’s a normal answer for Jeremy.’ Jeremy even admits now he would have answered it the same way (if he didn’t hit his head).” Maas did not have a concussion – but he did have a great story to tell.

Favorite Ivy League team to play: Princeton. “They have one of the most beautiful fields I’ve ever played on and a bunch of good pitchers. Every time you play Princeton, there are 25 scouts.”

Tom's brother, Brian, was a tremendous basketball player for Penn

Better athlete between the Grandieri brothers: Tom was kind enough to give the nod to Brian before his older brother tore his ACL during his freshman year at Penn. “Brian could dunk in the eighth grade, which people are always surprised to hear since he couldn’t jump over a phonebook at Penn.” These days, however? “I’m a much better athlete.”

Favorite part of Penn away from diamond: Hanging out at the local watering hole, The Blarney Stone, which “kind of became a sponsor for the Penn baseball team.” 

Favorite sport besides baseball: Without a doubt, basketball. He went to most Penn basketball games either as a fan or a student worker, and plans to get season tickets if he stays in Philly next year. “I’m a closet basketball freak.”

Favorite class: Psychology of Personal Growth. “It was basically group therapy. There were 25 kids in the class and we sat around and talked about our lives.”

Favorite restaurant: Back to Blarney. “A lot of people don’t know Blarney has food; it actually has amazing food.”

Thoughts on graduation: “It was awesome – a good way to end three years of hard work and put everything into focus.”

Future plans: The communications major/pro baseball hopeful is happily undecided at this point. “I don’t know if the Ivy Player of the Year will propel me to get drafted. That would be awesome if that happened. If not, I’ll attack the real world. I’m passively attacking it right now.” If he can’t play ball professionally, he hopes to get a job in sports marketing or public relations.

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Senior Spotlight: Ali DeLuca

By Ted Rawlings

Continuing to shine Penn senior athletes under the lights, I talked to another nationally recognized Quaker athlete: women’s lacrosse player Ali DeLuca. A two-time second team All-American, the 2007 Ivy League Rookie of the year and the 2010 Ivy League Player of the Year, the Hillsborough, New Jersey native recently set a new Penn record for goals scored in a career. She has helped lead the Quakers to three consecutive undefeated Ivy League championships, three consecutive Final Four appearances and a national title appearance two years ago. DeLuca and the Quakers are preparing for the inaugural Ivy League Women’s Lacrosse Tournament this weekend at Franklin Field before striving for a national championship.

Here are some thoughts on Penn (on and off the field) from one of the game’s top players:

DeLuca and Penn have been the perfect match

On her decision to come to Penn: “My oldest sister went to Brown and graduated last year, so I looked there. The schools were very similar. …But I wanted to go to a place where I could make my own name and be my own person. Penn was the perfect place, perfect city feel. And I fell in love with the girls when I visited.”

Time devoted to lacrosse over the past four years: She has spent so much time – “hundreds of hours with film and lifting and practice” – that she couldn’t pin down a specific amount of time per day. “It’s great to spend so much time doing something you love. And it’s great being with your best friends all of the time. …It’s a blessing.”

Favorite part about college lacrosse:  Undoubtedly, her teammates. “It’s definitely the team, the people who you are surrounded with every day.  Going out with them after games and the team-bonding experience – it’s the team.”

DeLuca and teammates have shared many great moments together

Favorite Ivy League team to play: Her oldest sister graduated from Brown last year and her younger sister plays for the Bears currently. The familial rivalry, though fun, doesn’t top Penn’s bitter enemy. “Princeton. The biggest game of the year is always Princeton. It’s such a great rivalry.”

Best lacrosse moment at Penn: She’s been to the NCAA final four every year that she has been at Penn. She just broke Penn’s career goals scored record. Yet, her favorite moment still dates back to 2008. “Beating Northwestern my sophomore year, hands down.”

On scoring 130 career goals (and counting): She broke the record on Easter Sunday at home against Columbia. “It was exciting. It was a great accomplishment. But at the same time, it wasn’t something that was in my sights. It’s still really exciting, but I’ve got to look ahead, too.”

Favorite part of Penn away from the Franklin Field: The city of Philadelphia. “The environment and the city life are at your disposal. You get the campus part, but also the city as well. There’s like a thousand restaurants and bars. I like that and you don’t get that dynamic at most colleges.”

Favorite restaurant: Without hesitation, “New Deck.”

Favorite Bar: Smokey Joe’s or The Blarney Stone? “Umm, Blarney. It has to be The Blarney Stone.”

Favorite Movie: Step Brothers.

"Hey I never asked you, do you like guacamole?"

Favorite Band: Third Eye Blind

Thoughts on graduation: “I’m in denial about it. I try not to think about it. I am excited for a new chapter in my life, but I am trying to live in the moment while I am still in college.”

Future plans: Happily undecided. “I’m holding off getting a job as long as possible.”

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Filed under Senior Spotlight, Women's Lacrosse

Senior Spotlight: Kristen Lange

With graduation about a month away, I thought it was a good time to catch up with some of Penn’s best senior athletes and ask them all about their time in college, their favorite moments and their future plans after graduation. Let’s call it Senior Spotlight. (Real creative, right?)

To start things off, I talked to one of the best athletes at Penn: squash player Kristen Lange. A four-time first team All-American, the Woodinville, Washington native advanced to the individual national championship three straight years before falling in the semifinals her senior season. She also consistently led her team to deep runs at the Howe Cup.

Even though her college career ended in the semifinals and short of her ultimate goal of winning a national championship, Lange said, “I’m not bitter our upset I went out in that match.”

Here’s more reflection from Penn’s premier squash player:

On her decision to come to Penn:  “I was on the West Coast so it was important to try to experience other cultures. West Coast and East Coast cultures are completely different. It was important for me to learn things from people here.”

Time devoted to squash over the past four years: About 3 ½ hour per day. “Freshman year it was a huge adjustment. I took calculus, bio and French 140 and was a little bit over my head. After that semester, I was fine. It was all about finding a routine.”

Favorite part about college squash:  The camaraderie with teammates. “Aside from a couple of years of soccer in junior high, I never played a team sport. Squash was always very individual. Being able to captain a team spot was the best thing for me.”

Lange, left, with her fellow senior teammates

Best squash moment at Penn: Comeback win over Princeton her sophomore year. “We had lost the first four matches and I was one of the last matches to play. I was sick with the stomach flu that day and lost the third game and told (coach) Jack (Wyant) I was going to throw up. I asked, ‘Can we win this?’ He said, ‘Yes we can.” So I went back out on the court and won, and then my teammate, Tara Chawla, who was celebrating her 21st birthday, won an insane match in five. We rushed the court and all hugged her. I was sick as a dog for the next three days but coming back from 4-0 in squash is pretty big.”

Favorite part of Penn away from the squash courts: Being tabbed to be in the Friars Senior Society. “One of my favorite parts is going to all of the performances. I have so much respect for all of them. I don’t think I would have seen that if I would have gone to another school.”

Favorite restaurant: Distrito. “The sangria there is amazing.”

Thoughts on graduation: “I’m looking forward to it. I think like anyone I’m nervous about it but really excited. It’s one of those things where you cannot believe it’s been four years at Penn already. I’m sure everyone says that.”

Lange will look to take her squash skills to the next level after graduation

Future plans: Turn pro in the Women’s International Squash Players Tour, before going to med school. “Squash is a huge sport internationally. I’d really like to make some money before doing anything, and I’d be getting the chance to travel around the world. I’m not sure that’s going to be a career for me. I want to eventually go into biothetics or go to med school. For me, that’s the end goal. But I’m young. Why not get this experience while the economy is not the greatest? I’d get to do things most people only get to dream about.

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Filed under Senior Spotlight, Squash