Category Archives: Year in Review

Here’s a toast to dear old Penn

This past year was a great one for Penn sports, as I tried to document with this list of memorable games. But it was also a sad one, as a few Quaker legends passed away. Here’s a brief tribute to some of the ones we lost in 2012:

George Savitsky Ed’48 D’54 GD’59

July 30, 1924 – September 4, 2012

George SavitskyA four-time All-American from 1944-47, Savitsky was one of the greatest football players ever to play for Penn – during one of the program’s greatest stretches.

Led by the bruising offensive tackle, the Quakers were ranked 10th in the nation in 1945, 13th in 1946 and seventh in 1947 (which stands as the program’s highest finish ever).

Savitsky, who was also a member of the track and field and wrestling teams while at Penn, was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1947 and won NFL championships in 1948 and 1949 with the Birds, before returning to Penn to study to become a dentist. He lived most of his life as an oral surgeon in New Jersey.

He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1991 and was also a member of the second class to be inducted into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.

Bob Odell C’43

March 5, 1922 – December 15, 2012

Bob Odell 1Another standout football player from the 1940s, Odell did it all for the Quakers as one of the last great iron-man players. He ran, passed, punted, received, returned kickoffs and punts and played defense from 1940-43, winning the Maxwell Trophy and coming in second in the Heisman Trophy voting as a senior in 1943.

He was drafted into the NFL in 1944 but instead served two years in the United States Navy, before giving up football due to a knee injury. But he only gave up playing football and quickly got into coaching, compiling an overall record of 136-95-5 as the head coach for Bucknell, Penn and Williams.

He was the head coach at Penn from 1965 to 1970 before taking over at Williams.

He was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 1992 and was a charter member of the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996.

Dick Harter Ed’53

October 14, 1930 – March 12, 2012

dick harterA basketball lifer, Harter is perhaps best known for coaching Penn to a perfect regular season in 1970-71 that ended in devastating fashion.

Before that, Harter played for the Quakers as a reserve guard, was an assistant coach for Penn after graduating and returned to his alma mater as head coach in 1966 after a brief stint at Rider. His 1969-70 and 1970-71 teams were two of the best in program history – and his Marine-like intensity was a big reason why.

In 1971 Harter left Penn to coach the University of Oregon, where his teams were known as the “Kamikaze Kids” because of their fast-paced defensive style. He later coached at Penn State and then spent many years as an NBA coach (for the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, Portland Trailblazers, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers).

Harter was inducted into the Philadelphia Big 5 Hall of Fame in 1993. Three years later, he was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame.

Albert Richmond “Boo” Morcom

May 1, 1921 – October 3, 2012

Morcom2A track and field star at the University of New Hampshire and an Olympian, Morcom came to Penn in 1948 to be an assistant coach for the Quakers’ track program.

Two years later, he was recalled for duty in the Korean War (where he served as an office and jumpmaster in the 101st Airborne Division known as “The Screaming Eagles”) before returning to Penn, where he spent 35 years as an assistant coach, a head coach and, finally, the director of intramural athletics.

During his lifetime, Boo was elected into seven halls of fame, including the Braintree High School Athletic Hall of Fame, the UNH Athletic Hall of Fame, the Pole Vault Hall of Fame, the Massachusetts Track Coaches Hall of Fame, and as a coach in the Women’s Track and Field Hall of Fame.

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The top ten games of 2012

It’s almost New Year’s Eve, so you know what that means: a year-end review of the best games of 2012. For the third straight year, we’ll be counting down the most dramatic, meaningful and memorable contests of the past 12 months across all team sports at Penn. As always, this list is subjective, excludes the great performances in the more individual-oriented sports, and slants toward games in which Penn wins. Enjoy!

10) October 27: Women’s Soccer – Penn 1, Brown 0, OT

There’s nothing like the pressure of sudden-death overtimes – especially when you’re playing your final home game of the season and need a win to remain in contention for the share of a conference title. In the fifth minute of overtime, Megan York responded to that pressure in a big way, scoring her only goal of the season and touching off a huge celebration in the middle of Rhodes Field. The following week, however, the Quakers lost its chance at piece of the Ivy League crown when it fell to Princeton. Watch York’s game-winner below.

9) December 1: Wrestling – Penn 24, Lehigh 12

There have been closer matches over the past year, but for the Penn wrestling team, this one was the best. In a recent early-season matchup, the Quakers went into the opposing gym of a nationally ranked team, won their first four weights and held on for their first road win over Lehigh since 2007. The convincing victory also marked Penn’s first triumph over a nationally ranked team since 2009. Watch some highlights below.

8) October 28: Field hockey – Penn 2, Brown 1, OT

On its own, the drama of winning its final home game of the season in sudden-death fashion (on a goal from junior captain Julie Tahan) would probably have been enough to make this list. But this game had even more meaning as the Quakers paid tribute to former field hockey player Kate Gray, who was undergoing her final chemotherapy treatment for a form of bone cancer, by wearing gold socks, armbands and headbands. The game may have also been the field hockey program’s final one at Franklin Field as plans for a new field are underway. After scoring the game-winning goal, Tahan would say, “Ninety years of field hockey we’ve been playing here – we needed to win our last game if it’s the last time we’re playing here ever.” Hear more from an ecstatic Tahan in this postgame interview below.

7) March 10: Women’s lacrosse – Penn, 14, Harvard 13, OT

Courtney Tomchik had already scored three goals as the final seconds of overtime ticked off the clock in this women’s lacrosse shootout at Franklin Field. But that wasn’t enough. With 24 seconds remaining, Tomchik netted the first game-winning goal of her career to send the Quakers to the dramatic victory. Erin Brennan added three goals, including the 100th of her career for Penn, which rallied from a five-goal deficit. Less than two months later, the Quakers would beat Harvard again in the Ivy League tournament semifinals – before losing in the Ivy finals and then in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

6) October 19: Volleyball – Penn 3, Princeton 2

What’s better than beating Princeton? How about beating Princeton by staging a ridiculously huge comeback. That’s what happened in this road matchup as the Quakers dropped the first two sets and allowed the Tigers to come within two points of winning the third set – before rattling off seven points to stay alive and then capture the fourth and fifth sets to leave New Jersey with the hard-fought victory. Kristen Etterbeek had a match-high 19 kills and 10 digs for Penn, which finished with a 13-12 overall record and an 8-6 mark in the Ivies.

5) November 17: Football – Penn 35, Cornell 28

It was only fitting that the Penn football team capped a season filled with dramatic victories with a, well, dramatic victory. Fresh off beating Brown, Princeton and Harvard (more on that one below) in memorable fashion, the Quakers needed to top Cornell in their regular-season finale to win the outright Ivy League title, as opposed to sharing the crown. They accomplished that when senior quarterback Andrew Holland, who was filling in for the injured Billy Ragone, engineered a game-winning drive (capped by a touchdown run from Spencer Kulcsar) to put Penn up 35-28 with a minute to play. The Quakers then held on for dear life as Cornell got the ball within eight yards of the end zone before time ran out, giving Penn its 13th outright Ivy League title – a conference record. Watch the highlights of the thrilling game below.

4) December 5: Women’s Basketball – Penn 61, St. Francis (N.Y.) 60

Early-season non-conference college basketball games don’t always carry with them much appeal. But when the Quakers went to New York earlier this month, they made history. Trailing by 18 points with seven-and-a-half-minutes remaining, the Penn women staged the program’s biggest comeback of all-time, finishing on a 22-3 run and scoring the game’s final 15 points to win by one. Leading scorer Alyssa Baron drove in for the game-winning bucket with 6.4 seconds left. Watch the play below.

3) May 5: Softball – Penn 4, Cornell 0

OK, so in terms of comebacks, game-winning plays and back-and-forth drama, this one doesn’t stack up to the others on the list. But the Quakers’ 4-0 shutout of Cornell in the one-game playoff for the Ivy League’s South Division championship was memorable for another reason. It was memorable because of pitcher Alexis Borden, who accomplished one of the sport’s most impressive feats: a perfect game. It was the first time an Ivy League softball pitcher didn’t allow anyone to reach base for a full game since 2006, and it gave the Quakers their second divisional title since the Ivy League went to the North-South format in 2007. Watch the final pitch of the perfecto below.

2) November 10: Football – Penn 30, Harvard 21

To understand why this was such a good win for Penn, you need to understand that Harvard looked to be unbeatable coming into this Ivy League showdown at Franklin Field. The Crimson were ranked first in the league in most important statistical categories, owned the best rushing defense in the nation, and were absolutely obliterating their opponents to that point. On top of that, Ragone suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle, leaving the Quakers without their starting quarterback for the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, Penn played a near-perfect game to defeat the nationally ranked Crimson and capture at least a share of its 16th Ivy League championship (which they would win outright the following week at Cornell). Head coach Al Bagnoli would later call it one of the best wins in his 21-year tenure. Watch the highlights below.

1) February 25: Men’s Basketball – Penn 55, Harvard 54

If you were lucky enough to be Boston on this cold February night, you probably still get chills thinking about it. Harvard needed a win to capture at least a share of its second straight Ivy League title – and for most of the night, it looked as if they were going to get it. But Penn star Zack Rosen simply would not allow it, scoring a game-high 20 points – including a slew of off-balance shots as well as two game-winning free throws with 23 seconds – to lead the Quakers to a thrilling come-from-behind win over the heavily favored Crimson. The victory – which was secured when fifth-year senior Tyler Bernardini drew a charge to negate a go-ahead basket by Harvard’s Kyle Casey – kept Penn in contention for its first Ivy title since 2007 until its very last game of the season, when it lost to Princeton. But that disappointing regular-season finale shouldn’t take away from Penn’s incredible upset in Boston a week-and-a-half earlier.


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The top 10 games of 2011

With the clock about to strike midnight on 2011, I figured it’s time to look back at the year that was in Penn sports. And what better way to do so than by counting down the most exciting/meaningful/awesome games of the year. Unfortunately, this kind of list excludes some of the best performances in more individual-oriented sports but you can find some of those here and the rest in next June’s “Year in Penn Sports” post. For now, like last year, I’ll be counting down (my own subjective list of) the top ten games of the calendar year. If I’m forgetting any great ones, please let me know in the comments section.

10) December 22: Women’s Basketball – Penn 67, Drexel 65, OT

It may still be early in the basketball season but this recent game, perhaps more than any other, shows just how far the Penn women’s basketball team has come. In the “Battle for 33rd Street,” the Quakers outlasted their neighborhood rival in overtime, after surrendering a game-tying basket from Drexel at the end of regulation. Standouts Kara Boneberger and Alyssa Baron led the way with a combined 53 points for the Quakers, who had lost four straight to Drexel, including a 31-point defeat last year.

9) April 2: Baseball – Penn 8, Harvard 7

Few things are more exciting in sports than walk-off wins. Throw in the fact that the Quakers needed 12 innings to complete its Ivy League sweep of the visiting Crimson at Meiklejohn Stadium and you have one of the most memorable games of the year. Called upon as a pinch hitter, sophomore Spencer Branigan was the hero of the day, hitting the game-winning sacrifice fly for the Quakers, who finished the season with a 19-21 overall record and a 10-10 mark in the league.

8) September 9: Women’s Soccer – Penn 1, Villanova 0

The Penn women’s soccer team matched a program record with 14 wins this past season, including a 3-1 defeat of rival Princeton in the season finale, an 8-0 thrashing of NJIT and a staggering 12 shutouts. But only one of those victories came inside a professional stadium. In a game that truly energized coach Darren Ambrose and the entire program, the Quakers used the first career goal from freshman Megan York to beat Villanova at PPL Park, the home of the Philadelphia Union. The atmosphere was memorable for the players and so was their performance — especially considering the Quakers were 1-11-1 against the Wildcats coming into the game.

7) February 26: Men’s Lacrosse – Penn 7, Duke 3

Duke may have rolled into Franklin Field as the defending national champs but they left as just another team to feel the Quakers’ wrath at home. In its first game of the season, the Quaker surprised 10th-ranked Duke, holding the powerful Blue Devils to three goals in a game for the first time since 1986. Freshman goalie Brian Feeney was the thorn in Duke’s side, making nine big saves for Penn, which won all six of its games at Franklin Field last season, including three against nationally ranked opponents. (Scroll down further to find another one.)

6) April 16: Women’s Lacrosse – Penn 10, Dartmouth 9

In a pivotal late-season contest between two powerhouse teams that were not only nationally ranked teams but also tied atop the Ivy League standings, the Quakers reigned supreme. Goalie Emily Leitner tied her career high with nine saves and Caroline Bunting broke a 9-9 deadlock with the game-winning goal with three minutes remaining. The win turned out to be the final triumph in Penn’s 34-game Ivy League winning streak (the third longest streak in NCAA history) as the Quakers lost to Princeton four days later and then again to the Tigers in the Ivy League tournament. But this win over Dartmouth still helped Penn capture its fifth consecutive Ivy League title.

5) November 12: Men’s Soccer – Penn 3, Harvard 2, 2OT

As season finales go, they don’t get much better than this. The Quakers ended up with a 3-4 record in the brutally competitive Ivy League but saved their best for last, winning at Harvard in sudden death fashion. Thomas Brandt, Penn’s senior captain, was brilliant in his final collegiate game, scoring all three goals (a Penn player’s first hat trick since Steve Marcinkiewicz did it in 1995), including the golden goal in the second overtime period on a corner kick from classmate Christian Barreiro. The wildly entertaining game also included three yellow cards, a red card, a scrum at midfield and a Harvard equalizer in the final minute of regulation.

4) April 3: Softball – Penn 9, Dartmouth 8; Penn 10, Dartmouth 8

How often does a team come back from a four-run deficit in its final at bat? Remarkably, the Penn softball team managed to do it twice – in the same day. In a home doubleheader against Dartmouth early in the Ivy League season, the Quakers fell behind 8-4 going into the seventh inning in both contests, before staging improbable rallies in both. In the opener, Brooke Coloma tied the game with a two-run double and then Kayla Dahlerbruch drove in the winning run with a single to left. Then in the second game, a three-run homer from Kristen Johnson tied the game at 8-8 in the seventh inning, before Coloma belted a two-run blast the next inning to give the Quakers another walk-off win.

3) April 1: Men’s Lacrosse – Penn 10, Yale 9, 30T

Not since 1973 had the Penn men’s lacrosse team played a game that lasted this long. But when the finally whistle finally blew after four quarters and nearly three overtime periods, it was certainly worth it for the exhausted Quakers. After falling behind by three goals at the half to 15th-ranked Yale in an Ivy League showdown at Franklin Field, the Quakers enjoyed a six-goal third quarter to take a two-goal lead, only to give it back in the fourth quarter. After both teams failed to score in the first two OT periods, freshman Drew Belinsky ended the grueling marathon with a sudden-death goal with just over three minutes to go in the third overtime session, eliciting a huge celebration from the Penn side.

2) October 1: Football – Penn 22, Dartmouth 20

Dartmouth was billing the game its Super Bowl, excited to open the league slate against the two-time defending Ivy League champion Quakers in what was the first night game in school history. Then Penn came to town and spoiled the party – in truly agonizing fashion for Dartmouth fans. The Quakers only had one touchdown all night, but it came with 17 seconds left and it propelled the visitors to a stunning 22-20 victory in both team’s Ivy League openers. The TD, which was caught by receiver Ryan Calvert, capped an 89-yard drive orchestrated by quarterback Billy Ragone. Penn went on to win in its next two Ivy games in dramatic fashion but ended up dropping three of its last four league games to fall short of the program’s third straight conference championship.

1) February 5: Men’s Basketball – Harvard 83, Penn 82, 20T

It’s hard to end this list with a Penn loss – the only one on here – but it’s also hard to imagine any game more memorable than this one. It was, quite simply, a classic game filled with all the elements that make basketball at the Palestra special: buzzer beaters, record-breaking performances and a little bit of controversy. Despite never leading in regulation, the Quakers were able to force overtime against the talented Crimson, in part because the refs decided the buzzer went off before a Penn foul. In the first overtime session, the Quakers erased a couple of five-point deficits, capped by a made basket in traffic from point guard Zack Rosen as time expired. Penn finally took its first lead in the second overtime period but Harvard fought back and escaped Philly with a win thanks to a go-ahead bucket from Oliver McNally and good defense on Rosen (who finished with 21 points and a program-record 13 assists) in the final seconds. If that wasn’t enough, the Quakers lost a similarly agonizing OT game to Princeton just three days later, before dropping their next two games to fall out of title contention. Perhaps in 2012, Penn will come out on the winning end in these kinds of thrillers. New Year’s resolution, anybody?

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A Year in Penn Sports: 2010-11

There were championships, record-setting performances and other memorable athletic achievements during the 2010-11 school year at the University of Pennsylvania. And for the second straight year, we at the Gazette are here to count down the 10 biggest ones as we look back at the year that was in Penn sports. Enjoy.

Senior forward Jack Eggleston hugs freshman guard Miles Cartwright after winning the first -- and only -- Big 5 game of his career (

10) Big wins in Big 5: Penn’s basketball programs are still not where they’d like to be in terms of competing for championships, but both certainly took steps in the right direction this year by finally beating Big 5 opponents. In January, the women’s team topped La Salle for its first Big 5 win since 2004 – a result that also marked the program’s 400th overall victory. And not long after that, Penn’s senior class – led by the rock of the program, Jack Eggleston – beat a city opponent for the first time with a Palestra triumph over Saint Joseph’s. Baby steps, right?

9) An All-American kind of guy: Wrestling in the NCAA Championships right here in Philadelphia, Zack Kemmerer took eighth place in the 141-pound weight class to become the 25th All-Ameican in the program’s illustrious history. The program’s 24th All-American was teammate Scott Giffin, who entered the Penn record books last year but couldn’t repeat his success at this year’s NCAA Championships.

8 ) Lacrosse dances together: As I wrote in the recent issue of the Gazette, the women’s lacrosse team had a down year by its own standards as it lost in the Ivy League playoffs and the first round of the NCAA tournament. But Penn sports fans should be enthused that both lacrosse teams made the NCAA tournament in the same year as the mean’s team earned a berth for just the third time since 1989.

7) Volleyball spikes back: Fresh off capturing a share of its second straight Ivy championship, the women’s volleyball team beat Yale in a five-set thriller to book their ticket to the NCAA tournament. The Quakers lost in the first round at NCAAs to Ohio, but it’s clear this program is on the move.

6) Putting the tie in title: The Penn women’s soccer team would have preferred to beat nemesis Princeton in the final game of the regular season. But a scoreless tie did the trick too, giving the Quakers an Ivy League championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament, where they played well but lost to a good Penn State team in the first round. It was the program’s second league title in the past four seasons.

Paul Cusick C'11 officially signs a contract with the Philles (Penn Athletics)

5) From Penn to the pros: Not since 2004 had a Penn athlete been selected in the Major League Baseball Draft, but this year two Quakers were chosen. In the 29th round, pitcher Paul Cusick went to his favorite team, the Philadelphia Phillies, and in the 47th round, pitcher Vince Voiro was picked by the San Diego Padres. Cusick is already playing with the Phillies’ Gulf Coast League affiliate, although Voiro may opt to return to Penn for his senior season so he can try to go higher in next year’s draft. Either way, both players will try to soon join Penn alum Mark DeRosa in the Big Leagues.

4) Freshman phenom: Women’s tennis star Connie Hsu was literally unbeatable for Penn during the spring, winning all 20 of her singles matches, capturing Ivy League Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year plaudits, and becoming the first Quaker to qualify for the NCAA singles championships since Alice Pirsu did it in 2003. Then, at NCAAs, Penn’s star freshman knocked off the fifth overall seed, Notre Dame’s Kristy Frilling, in a dramatic three-set match. Hsu finally lost in the Round of 32 to Virginia’s Lindsey Hardenbergh.

3) Madness at Rhodes: It was an electric atmosphere at Rhodes Field when Penn hosted Bucknell in the first round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament, and the Quakers responded with their most dramatic win of the season. Christian Barreiro, a rising senior, scored the game-winner in sudden-death overtime to lift the Quakers into the second round, where they lost to powerhouse Maryland.

2) Higher and faster: Freshman high jumper Maalik Reynolds and sophomore distance runner Leslie Kovach were both recently named All-Americans after they represented Penn very nicely at the NCAA Track and Field Championships. Before that, Kovach set three school records (indoor 5,000 meters, outdoor 5,000 meters, outdoor 5,000 meters), while Reynolds easily smashed the school’s high jump mark while winning the Championship of America at the Penn Relays. I wrote a feature on these two track stars for the current Gazette, which you can read here.

The Penn football team hoists up their Ivy League championship trophy (Penn Athletics)

1) A championship unlike any other: It’s one thing to win an outright Ivy League football title. It’s another thing entirely to do so by running through the conference unbeaten for the second straight season, all while honoring former teammate Owen Thomas and spirit coach Dan “Coach Lake” Staffieri, both of whom passed away before the season began. And if that wasn’t enough, the Penn football program earned its 800th win earlier in their historic fall campaign. Kudos to these Quakers for raising the bar as to what it means to be a champion.


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The top 10 games of 2010

Well, a year is about to end so you know what that means. It’s time for some kind of best-of list to honor 2010. (What kind of blog would this be if I didn’t do at least one?) I settled on the top ten games – won by Penn, of course – because there were so many this year that were filled with drama, surprise and significance. My apologies in advance if I’m leaving out some great ones – and also that I’m excluding some of the more individual-oriented sports – but I feel this is a list that best encapsulates the year that was in Penn sports.

So, here counting down from No. 10, are what I determined to be the ten best Penn games of 2010:

10) March 6: Women’s basketball – Penn 44, Dartmouth 31

OK, so any basketball game where the teams combine for 75 points probably isn’t too pleasing on the eyes. But this win for the Quakers was significant for many reasons, starting with the fact that it was the team’s first Ivy League victory of the season (and under head coach Mike McLaughlin) and also that it marked the fewest points allowed by a Penn team in 15 years. To top it off, it came against the defending league champs.

9) March 13: Men’s lacrosse – Penn 8, Villanova 7

There were plenty of comeback and close wins for the Quakers in 2010 but this one may just take the cake. Trailing by a goal with two minutes to play, Corey Winkoff and Rob McMullen scored just 13 seconds apart to give Penn the dramatic one-goal win over its city rival.

8 ) Nov. 5: Sprint football – Penn 70, Princeton 0

Ok, so maybe this wasn’t exactly a great game in terms of competitiveness. But if you’re a Penn fan, how can you not love a championship-clinching win over Princeton? And if you think a 70-0 final is running to the score, well, maybe you’re right. But it was against Princeton, so who cares? Kudos to the Quaker football lightweights for a memorable end to their season.

7) Jan. 30: Men’s basketball – Penn 55, Brown 54

The Quakers only won five Ivy League games last season but they certainly made their wins memorable. In this one, Dan Monckton played the role of hero with a Lorenzo Charles-like putback at the buzzer that turned a one-point deficit into a thrilling but controversial one-point win. Did the ball leave Monckton’s hands before the buzzer sounded? Something says Brown coach Jesse Agel would still say no. But for the Quakers, it was a sweet moment nonetheless.

6) Oct. 2: Football – Penn 35, Dartmouth 28

The Penn football team had one of the most glorious seasons in school history, running through the Ivy League season unbeaten and claiming the program’s 12th outright league title – all while honoring the memory of fallen teammate Owen Thomas and spirit coach Dan “Lake” Staffieri. But their perfect Ivy campaign was nearly derailed in their first very first league game when a game Dartmouth squad took the Quakers to overtime. It took the fourth touchdown of the day from QB Billy Ragone and a defensive stop in OT for Penn to pull it out – and from there, they marched to history.

5) Oct. 30: Women’s soccer – Penn 3, Brown 2, OT

Junior forward Marin McDermott had a day to remember, scoring twice and setting up teammate Ursula Lopez-Palm for the game-winner in overtime as Penn came from behind to win its final home game of the season. The Quakers followed that up with a tie vs. Princeton, a result that assured them an Ivy League title and a trip to the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Princeton in the first round.

4) Nov. 21: Women’s volleyball – Penn 3, Yale 2

Less than a month after losing in straight sets to Yale, the Quakers countered with a thrilling five-set win over the Bulldogs in New Haven, which assured Penn its second straight trip to the NCAA tournament. Yale had the momentum after winning the third and fourth sets, but the Quakers dug in for the final set, getting five straight kills en route to a 15-8 win. Penn’s season ended to weeks later when it fell to Ohio in the first round of the NCAAs.

3) May 2: Women’s lacrosse – Penn 9, Dartmouth 8

For four years, the seniors of the Penn women’s lacrosse program had never lost to an Ivy League team. But that streak nearly came to a screeching halt in their final try – in the championship game of the inaugural Ivy League tournament. But after Dartmouth scored five straight goals to tie the game at 7-7, the Quakers got scores from Megan Smith and Maddie Poplawski and then held off the Big Green to capture the league crown. Then, playing in their fourth straight NCAA tournament, the Quakers beat Boston U. before being knocked out by Maryland as the most successful senior class in program history said farewell.

2) Nov. 18: Men’s soccer – Penn 1, Bucknell 0, OT

In front of the largest Rhodes Field crowd that head men’s soccer coach Rudy Fuller could ever remember, the Quakers won their first-round NCAA tournament game in the most dramatic way possible: sudden death. After two halves of scoreless soccer, Christian Barreiro netted the game-winner in overtime to set off a huge celebration and send the Quakers into Round 2 of the NCAAs, where they lost to national power Maryland.

1) Feb. 12: Men’s basketball — Penn 79, Cornell 64

This regular-season matchup didn’t carry the same weight as other games on this list that either clinched or led to championships. But for those who follow Penn sports, the basketball team’s stunning upset of then-nationally ranked Cornell was as memorable as any Palestra game in many, many years. Cornell, which ended up winning its third straight league title and marching all the way to the Sweet 16, boasted the best Ivy League squad in more than a decade, while the Quakers were in the midst of one of their worst seasons ever. But for 40 minutes, just about everything went right for Penn as it rolled to a convincing win over its stunned guests. And as students rushed the court to celebrate, we all got a flashback to the glory days of the Palestra and, we hope, a glimpse to all the things that can be in the future. And really, isn’t that what sports are all about?


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A year in Penn sports

With the calendar now hitting June, I thought it would be an appropriate time to wrap up the year in Penn sports. From triumphs to tragedy, the 2009-10 school year was packed with many significant moments. In chronological order, here are 10 of the most memorable:

The defense never rests: Overcoming a strong Harvard team and a torrential downpour in Boston, the Quakers football team first clinched a share of the Ivy League title with a 17-7 win over the Crimson on Nov. 14. Then, they captured their first outright crown since 2003 with a 34-0 trouncing of Cornell the following week at Franklin Field. The championship marked the seventh in head coach Al Bagnoli’s tenure, with this 2009 team going down in history as boasting one of the most dominant defenses ever to grace Franklin Field.

Going to a battle against Army: On Nov. 14, the Penn volleyball team clinched its eighth Ivy League championship – and its first since 2003 – with a 3-1 win over Dartmouth. That was nice and all … but not as nice as when the Quakers made history three weeks later, beating Army for the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament win. Ivy League Player of the Year Elizabeth Semmens and the league’s rookie of the year, Lauren Martin, led the Quakers, who bowed out of the NCAAs to national power Penn State in the second round.

No more Cloudy days: Less than a year after legendary fencing coach Dave Micahnik retired, another longtime member of the Penn coaching fraternity called it a career: Val Cloud. For 30 years, Cloud was a staple on the field hockey sideline – the first 15 years as an assistant and the last 15 as the head coach – and met much success. Her replacement, Colleen Quinn Fink, a former Haverford College head coach and St. Joe’s player, was hired in April.

The upset of the year: In just about any other season, beating Cornell in a men’s basketball game at the Palestra would be cause for little more than a yawn over your morning cup of coffee. But when on Feb. 12 the floundering Quakers trounced a then-nationally ranked Big Red team that would go on to win its third straight Ivy title and advance to the Sweet 16, some called it the upset of the year in college basketball. ESPN even devoted about 10 minutes to the game and the students who stuck around through three brutal seasons rushed the Palestra court. It also probably helped lead to the next item on the list…

Penn goes all in on Allen: Only months after being hired as a Penn assistant coach, former Penn hoops star Jerome Allen C’95 was thrust into head coaching duties when Glen Miller was fired during winter break. Aside from the big win over Cornell (see above), Allen didn’t immediately produce drastically different results in terms of wins and losses. But when it came time to name a permanent head coach, Allen was the clear choice because of the energy he brought to the program and the unwavering support he had from players and fans, many of whom had grown disenchanted during the Glenn Miller error. The 2010-11 season will be an important one for Allen and a team that should be able to once again compete for an Ivy title.

Giffin joins elite group of wrestlers: The Penn wrestling program boasts a storied tradition, and in March, junior Scott Giffin secured his own place in it, becoming the 24th All-America in school history with a seventh-place showing at the NCAA Championships. The 174-pouner junior is the first All-America for second-year head coach Rob Eiter and only the third in his weight class. And he’ll back next season.

Tragedy besets football program, twice: When the man known as Coach Lake lost a battle with bladder cancer in early April, it was devastating but also a cause for celebration. Lake had devoted a long and wonderful life to the Penn football program, and his wild clothes and creative ways to boost morale transformed him from an assistant coach to a campus legend. When senior co-captain Owen Thomas took his own life later that month – the second time in five years a Penn football player in the prime of his life committed suicide – there was nothing but agony. My heart continues to go out to Al Bagnoli and everyone else in the Penn football community.

When Franklin Field shook: For three centuries, Franklin Field has been home to many spine-tingling moments with fans packing every corner and crevice of the venerable stadium on 33rd Street. It’s hard to imagine many being comparable to the final day of the 2010 Penn Relays when the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, and his Jamaican relay team shattered a carnival record and delighted the packed house of 54,310 fans. There’s a reason why the Penn Relays is the premier track and field competition in the country.

Enjoying the firsts: It took 11 years since the program first teed off, but on April 25 the Penn women’s golf team captured its first Ivy League championship – and then got a shout out from Tony Kornheiser on Pardon the Interruption for good measure. The Quakers won the three-day league league tourney at the famed Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., and went on to compete in the 72-team NCAA tournament, another first for a program that only began in 2000.

For four years, perfection: When a group of women’s lacrosse freshman arrived on campus in 2006, Penn had not won an Ivy League title in the sport since 1982 and had not played in the NCAA tournament since 1984. Four years later, those same players graduated with a perfect 28-0 record in league competition, as well as a championship in the inaugural Ivy League tournament and four deep runs at the NCAAs. After losing in the national semifinals in 2007 and 2009, and the national finals in 2008, the Quakers failed to make it the final four this season, bowing out in the quarterfinals to Maryland. But the legacy left by record-setter Ali DeLuca, All-American Emma Spiro and the rest of the senior class will not be forgotten.


Filed under Year in Review