Penn's Tumultuous Path to Getting Back on the Field


Adam Goldner set a single-game program record with nine goals in Penn's first game back.

Don’t think for a second Mike Murphy lost track of Adam Goldner’s goal total on Friday night.

The Penn coach finally got his team — including his senior attackman — back on the field for a 23-9 victory at Division III Cabrini. And the Quakers, playing in their first game in more than a year and possibly their only game of the year, made it memorable.

Goldner scored nine goals — the last coming with 5:04 left — to set a single-game program record. The previous mark of eight was first set by Frank Gibson in 1954 against Rutgers and matched by Tom Gasparini against Drexel in 1969.

“We knew where he was and what the program record was,” Murphy said. “He’s paying his own money to come back to school this year. He decided to do this and pass up a job with J.P. Morgan to come back and play lacrosse. The way he’s been treated and all the stuff we’ve gone through, it’s really too bad for him to forego a job with J.P. Morgan and pay his own way for a fifth year of school and get this as an experience. We wanted to make that one game as meaningful for everybody, especially the seniors, as we could.”

It wasn’t for lack of effort that it took Penn this long to finally play, even after the Ivy League canceled spring sports conference competition in February. The Quakers had a March 20 date with Lehigh lined up but weren’t quite ready to play that weekend. A March 27 game with Drexel fell through when Penn had a positive COVID-19 test pop up.

A complicating factor is an Ivy League protocol that prevents a team from not only traveling more than 40 miles from campus, but also facing a team located more than 40 miles away.

“I give our kids a ton of credit,” Murphy said. “They just hung in there and persevered. The hardest part was the lack of information, and then when we got some information, the lack of explanation. I still don’t know why we have a 40-mile radius. I don’t know if COVID becomes a lot more dangerous in the 41st mile.”

The geographic limitations on who the Quakers could play limited the options for opponents. Murphy said if could have constructed a home-heavy schedule in 2021 in exchange for handing next year’s team a non-conference schedule filled with road trips, he would have.

“No doubt,” Murphy said. “I think this team is unique. I think we could’ve been really good this year. That’s the saddest part of watching us play and watching these teams play on TV. I think we’re as good as these teams, on offense especially. This is probably the strongest and deepest collection of talent that we’ve had on offense in my 12 years, and that’s not disparaging the 2019 group.”

Goldner was part of that group, which won the Ivy League tournament and reached the NCAA tournament quarterfinals before falling in a riveting 19-18 overtime game. So was Sam Handley, who was expected to be one of the nation’s top midfielders this season.

Instead, he couldn’t play Friday because of a false positive. Five other Quakers missed the game because of contact tracing.

“The whole time, as joyful as it was, I kind of had a pit in my stomach because we were missing one of our seniors and a couple juniors and sophomores that couldn’t be part of what could end up being our only game of the year,” Murphy said.

Beyond monster games from Goldner and Dylan Gergar (seven goals), Murphy was largely pleased with how crisp the Quakers were after practicing for two months without the benefit of playing in games. They struggled a bit early on in the clearing game, and Murphy said those issues stemmed more from Cabrini’s performance than any sloppiness from Penn.

The Quakers are left in an awkward position. It’s quite possible the only way they’ll play another game is if a scheduled opponent of another team in the Philadelphia area develops virus issues. So Penn will wait — but at least it won’t be as long as the 411 days between the last game of 2020 and last week’s outing.

“That game Friday was well worth all the work,” Murphy said. “It doesn’t make up for everything we’ve gone through, but we had about as much fun in two hours as you can have on a lacrosse field. For a little while, we just forgot about everything we’ve gone through and enjoyed playing.”

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