2018-19 has been yet another strong year for Penn Athletics. Four teams won conference championships — with even more possible before the end of the spring. Individuals from track, lacrosse, squash, and more dominated on the national stage. Decades-long title droughts have been broken; equally lengthy individual records have fallen. Here’s DP Sports’ breakdown of the best of the best in all aspects of Penn sports.
Many Penn programs saw success this year, but no team has been as competitive nationally as men’s lacrosse.
Coming into the season, few would have picked the Quakers to win the Ivy League. The team was trying to figure out who would fill the role that midfielder and all-time great Connor Keating had filled for years. In addition, they hadn’t won a conference championship since 1988.
But that didn’t matter.
After dropping their first three games, the Quakers finished the regular season on a nine-game winning streak, achieving an unblemished 6-0 League record with wins against No. 2 Yale and No. 8 Cornell.
One of the driving factors for the Quakers’ success this season has been an offensive explosion. The team currently ranks No. 3 in the nation in scoring offense, led by junior attackman Adam Goldner, who broke the Penn record for most goals in a season with 46 and counting.
The Quakers’ magical run is not over quite yet, as they have the Ivy League and NCAA Tournaments coming up.
It’s been a while since Penn women’s track wasn’t at the top of the Ivy League. The Quakers swept the Indoor and Outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in 2018 and repeated as Indoor champions earlier this year.
The team’s performance at the Indoor Heps was another dominant showing. The Red and Blue totaled 136 points, blowing away runner-up Harvard’s score of 102. Penn took first place behind several individual championship performances in both track and field events.
Junior Cecil Ene, sophomore Melissa Tanaka, and junior Nia Akins ran away with victories in the 200-meter, 800, and 1000, respectively. Ene and Tanaka were the first Quakers to win those events since 2008, and Akins was named the Most Outstanding Indoor Track Performer of the weekend. The 4x440-yard and 4x880 relay teams also took first place with times of 3:43.68 and 8:52.10, respectively.
Penn didn’t just win it on the track, however — three athletes took the top spot in their respective field events.
Senior Anna Peyton Malizia won the high jump for the second straight year, while junior Maura Kimmel took the top prize in the shot put. Senior Rachel Lee Wilson placed first in the weight throw, and by the end of the weekend, the Red and Blue had won eight events.
The Quakers will be looking to add another title to their collection at this weekend’s Outdoor Heps in Princeton, N.J.
Remaining near the top of the conference after losing two of the best players in school history is not a common feat — but that’s exactly what coach Mike McLaughlin and Penn women’s basketball did this season.
After star seniors Anna Ross and Michelle Nwokedi graduated in 2018, there was a great deal of uncertainty regarding how the Quakers would fare in the 2018-19 season. Many questions were answered, though, when the team got off to an 8-2 start in non-conference play and knocked off rival Princeton to open the Ivy League season.
As the season progressed, McLaughlin’s Quakers cemented themselves as one of the best defenses not only in the Ancient Eight, but in the entire nation. They ranked first in the conference and eighth in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 54.4 points per game.
McLaughlin led Penn to yet another regular season Ivy title which was shared with Princeton after each team went 12-2 in conference play. The Red and Blue finished the season with 24 wins, tied for the most in program history.
As a result of another impressive season, McLaughlin was named the Ivy League and Big 5 Coach of the Year. It is the third time he has earned that honor from the Ivy League, and the fourth time he has won the Big 5 award.
Coming into the season Eleah Parker knew she had big shoes to fill.
After leading scorer and defensive anchor Michelle Nwokedi graduated, many expected women’s basketball to take a step back this season. Instead, Parker stepped into the spotlight and helped the Quakers to a share of the regular season Ivy League title.
Parker led the Quakers on both ends of the floor, taking advantage of her size and skill in the post to lead the team with 15.1 points per game, a total that was also good for fifth in the Ivy League.
Despite her offensive success, Parker’s true prowess came on the defensive end. Parker served as the centerpiece of the nation’s eighth best scoring defense, averaging 3.19 blocks per game, the third-highest average in the country. Parker’s 99 blocks during the season tied her with Sydney Stipanovich for the highest single season block total in Penn’s history.
Parker had her fair share of dominant performances, recording 11 double-doubles and scoring over 20 points six different times. However, her signature performance came in the penultimate Ivy game of the year, against Yale. The sophomore scored a career high 29 points, hauling in 16 rebounds and blocking four shots in Penn’s 65-56 win.
Already one of the most dominant players in Penn history, Parker still has two seasons to add to her ever growing legacy and lead the Red and Blue back to the NCAA tournament.
In an up-and-down season for Penn men’s basketball, AJ Brodeur was a constant presence.
The junior forward was just one of two players to start for the Quakers in each of the 31 games played in the 2018-19 season. More than that, though, Brodeur significantly impacted play every time he stepped on the court.
In Penn’s four-game Big 5 sweep, which gave the team its first title in 17 years, he averaged 17.3 points and never scored fewer than 16. During the Red and Blue’s less consistent Ivy League schedule, Brodeur recorded six double-doubles and played for over 30 minutes in all but one game.
All in all, the junior was a dominant force for the Quakers, leading the team in points, rebounds, blocks, assists, and field-goal percentage. He helped lead the Red and Blue to the Ivy League Tournament with wins in their last three games of the regular season and almost carried them to the finals with 25 points and 10 rebounds in a losing effort against Harvard.
At the end of conference play, Brodeur was named unanimous first team All-Ivy for the second consecutive year. With his senior season still to play, it would surprise no one if he repeated that feat once again.
Coach Roger Reina is famous for his ability to bring the best in high school talent to Penn wrestling. Nobody is a better example of that than rookie Anthony Artalona, who in his first season with the Quakers quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the most formidable freshmen in the country.
Artalona kicked off his inaugural season with a bang, winning the 149-pound division at the Michigan State Open on Nov. 3. He never looked back from there, earning a team-high 28 wins and five pins on the year.
Among a season of accolades, his most noteworthy accomplishment was arguably capturing a title at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships on March 9.
The Seffner, Fla. native was perfect throughout the tournament, putting up a 4-0 record to become Penn's first freshman EIWA champ since 2006. Artalona's dominant performance punched him a ticket to the NCAA Championships along with fellow rookie Carmen Ferrante.
On the national stage, Artalona would reach the Round of 12 at 149 pounds, posting a respectable 3-2 record among the nation's best. After a record-breaking first season for the Quakers, the rookie shows more than a modest amount of promise for his years to come on the mat.
Expectations were low for Penn women's basketball at the start of the year. They lost three of their five starters from last year's Ivy League runner-up squad and needed some of their role players to step up.
Enter Princess Aghayere.
After averaging the most bench minutes of anyone on the 2017-18 team, the senior forward became a starter for the first time in her Penn career this season and thrived as a member of the starting five. She helped ease the loss of Michelle Nwokedi with consistent offense and tough defense to round out a competitive Penn team that finished with a share of the Ivy League title.
Aghayere averaged 12.0 points per game — and 14.4 points per game in Ivy play — which was good for second on the team. Against Cornell, she led the team with a 23-point, 10-rebound performance, and she played a career-high 48 minutes against Harvard, showing her resilience and durability as a player.
She was a weapon for the Quakers on offense, her impact going beyond what she brought to the stat sheet. Aghayere attacked the glass, ran the floor, and spread the ball around effectively, making huge strides in her final year wearing the Red and Blue.
With the departure of Darnell Foreman, Penn men’s basketball entered the 2018 season with a hole to fill at point guard.
En route to earning a selection to the All-Ivy second team, junior Devon Goodman not only filled that hole, but he probably covered a few others after fellow junior Ryan Betley, who led the 2017 team in scoring, went down with a season-ending injury in the Quakers’ first game of the year.
In his first season as a starter, Goodman took the reins of the team and never looked back, averaging an Ivy League-leading 37.6 minutes per game. He started 30 of 31 games — his only appearance off the bench came due to senior night — and averaged 13.9 points per game, a marked improvement upon his previous career high of 4.3.
In addition to his increased scoring output, which featured 37.5 percent three-point shooting after shooting 25 percent from deep the year before, Goodman grabbed 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Perhaps his greatest impact, however, was felt on the defensive end of the floor, where the junior forced two steals per contest in League play.
Goodman will surely return to Penn for his senior season with the same understated, yet commanding leadership that he’s demonstrated ever since taking a leading role. With their floor general leading the charge, the Red and Blue can expect even more from both Goodman and themselves in the upcoming year.
It was undeniably a great year for the Quakers in individual championships, but no one was quite as dominant as Nia Akins.
The junior impressed throughout the season, breaking a long-lasting program record in the 800-meters in January.
However, that wasn’t enough for Akins. After adding another win in the 1000 at Indoor Heps, which led the team to its first back-to-back title in 30 years, she nearly won it all at the NCAA Championships. With an impressive ime of 2:03.74, Akins set a new school and personal record and finished second in the 800, only .05 seconds away from the national title.
Only a few weeks after her memorable performance at the NCAAs, she added another accolade to her list. At the 125th Penn Relays, the junior was part of a relay team that won the College Women's Distance Medley Championship of America Invitational — a first for any Ancient Eight women’s team — and was the first Quaker to ever be recognized as the Women’s College Relay Athlete of the Meet.
2019 was undoubtedly Akins’ best year yet, and with one season left at Penn, she still hopes to collect more titles — and maybe even a spot in the 2020 Olympics.
You can try to put boundaries on senior Rachel Lee Wilson, but you should know that there may be no limit to her throwing abilities.
Wilson has been phenomenal for Penn women’s track week in and week out, breaking her own personal records to set a new program record almost every weekend.
The senior began breaking records in the very first event of the 2018-19 indoor season, setting a program record with a 20.04 meter weight throw. Wilson won seven out of nine weight throw events in the indoor season, including an individual Ivy Heps title that helped propel Penn to an overall team win. She bested the weight throw program record one last time with a 20.22m throw at the Texas Tech Invitational.
Wilson also asserted her dominance in the hammer throw in her very first meet outside, shattering the program record with a toss of 63.21m at the Penn Challenge.
Wilson has won three hammer throw events in the spring season, besting her personal record to set another program record with a 63.89m toss at the Sam Howell Invitational.
With Outdoor Heps and NCAAs around the corner, no program record is too safe as long as Wilson is around.
Penn baseball’s April 6 win over Dartmouth saw 21 innings, 36 runs, and 55 hits over the course of six hours, earning the game a place in the record books.
The final score of 21-15 does not reveal how close the game was throughout. A grand slam by freshman left fielder Craig Larsen in the eighth inning seemed to put the game away for the Quakers, as they went up by a score of 10-6.
Larsen’s homerun would help him hit for the cycle, becoming the first Penn player to do so since 2000.
Dartmouth came back to tie the game at 10, however, where the two teams remained deadlocked until the 13th inning. Penn plated three runs highlighted by a two-run triple from senior catcher Matt O’Neill, but that was followed by three runs from Dartmouth in the bottom of the inning.
In the 21st inning, the Quakers tallied nine hits and eight runs, which proved to be the final say in the back-and-forth affair.
Larsen and junior right fielder Peter Matt both set a NCAA record for at-bats with 12. When the dust settled, the game was the longest in Ivy League history, and Penn’s 30 hits would be the most in program history.
Although the records and stats are impressive, the Quakers’ perseverance and fight throughout this marathon game made it the clear favorite for the best game of the year.
In what ended up being arguably the most important game of the season, Penn men’s lacrosse advanced into overtime against Yale off a goal by senior midfielder Tyler Dunn.
Dunn has had an impressive career at Penn to say the least. He has scored over 55 goals and has been named honorable mention All-Ivy two years in a row. His performance against Yale contributed to Penn’s Ivy League title and No. 3 national ranking.
Against the Bulldogs, who are currently ranked No. 2 in the nation, the Quakers were down by one goal with two minutes left in regulation play. Yale had just scored, making the score 12-11, and junior TD Ierlan won the ensuing faceoff for the Elis.
However, Dunn was able to recover the ball and transition the play back down into Yale’s zone. With four seconds left in the game, sophomore attackman Sean Lulley passed the ball to Dunn, who geared up to shoot, sending the ball into the cage as time expired.
By the end of triple overtime, Penn had won. Though the Quakers wouldn’t become Ivy League champions until after their defeat of Harvard, beating Yale was a integral part of their season, and it wouldn’t have been possible without Dunn.
There's nothing quite as special as sprinting onto the Palestra floor with your classmates as the buzzer sounds. That's what an army of Red and Blue fans did after Penn men's basketball upset No. 17 Villanova by a 78-75 score, the team's first win over the Wildcats since 2002.
Both teams came into the Big 5 contest hot, winning a combined 10 games prior to facing off on Dec. 11, but Penn was still considered the underdog by a wide margin.
After the Quakers energized their home crowd by racing out to a quick 14-2 lead, Villanova charged back to claim a 17-16 advantage. The game would remain tight for the rest of the night, but that was the only moment the Wildcats ever claimed the lead.
Villanova closed to within one possession twice in the final minute, but the Quakers were able to respond and extend their lead each time.
And despite a last-second scare that gave the Wildcats a chance to tie, Penn ultimately did just enough to earn its second victory en route to a Big 5 title and send its fans into madness on the court.
The city of Philadelphia has a unique love for basketball as demonstrated by the Big 5, an annual competition between local teams Saint Joseph’s, La Salle, Temple, Villanova, and Penn. For this first time since 2002, Penn men’s basketball won by sweeping its four local foes.
It’s safe to say that even after an Ivy League championship campaign and a valiant showing in the NCAA tournament a year ago, nobody was picking the Quakers to defeat Villanova, the defending national champ, or even Temple, a perennial contender in the Big Dance.
Once Villanova’s last-gasp corner three fell short and fans stormed the Palestra floor, it felt like this would finally be the Quakers’ year. The Wildcats were ranked No. 17 in the nation at the time and it would be Penn’s most impressive victory all season.
In their next Big 5 contest, junior Kuba Mijakowski led the Quakers to victory over Temple in former Penn coach Fran Dunphy’s final game against his old team. This win secured at least a share of the Big 5 title, but the Red and Blue wanted the trophy all to themselves.
They would do just that exactly one week later with a win over St. Joseph’s at the Palestra, a win and a season that won’t be soon forgotten.