Hilgartner urged his players that day to play for their teammate who wished he could be out there with them. When the Eagles matched up well against Pennsylvania power Haverford School, it was an unmistakable sign to the coach that it might be a special season.
“That year, one of the big focuses on our team was just talking about being grateful,” Hilgartner said. “Just being grateful for the opportunity to walk onto the field every day, for the opportunity to have a hard practice, for the opportunity to be around our teammates. Archer was a big reason why our guys had that attitude throughout the year.”
The Eagles would finish 2016 at 18-1, including a handful of wins over nationally ranked opponents. They went unbeaten in MIAA on the way to their first title since 2005.
Senft attended as many games as he could, usually watching from the same spot near the Eagles’ bench.
“That was a big thing for me, especially early on,” Senft said. “They really made me feel like I was a part of what they were doing and really embraced me as a teammate, even though I wasn’t on the field.”
Along the way, #ArcherStrong became more than just a motto on their shooting shirts.
“I’d say it to myself, and it’d give me more energy,” Eagles goalie Ollie Abramson said. “Just because the fight that he put up with his injury was so inspiring to our entire team. Everything that we did was for him.”
Long an artist interested in drawing and painting, he discovered digital design during his recovery. He was discouraged with art therapy that had him struggling to draw by hand with charcoal. His iPad allows him to use Adobe Illustrator to produce graphics with the precision he craved.
Senft launched his Slimeyard Slimes line of shirts and ties last summer, a parody of the Vineyard Vines brand with a distinctive snail logo. Through the end of this month, several of his prints will be on display at a gallery a few blocks from his family’s home in Baltimore. His subjects range from rappers to Greek mythology.
“When I went down there,” Hilgartner said, “I was just blown away.”
All the while, Senft continues rehab in an effort to get stronger and more independent. He now has a specialized stationary bike that allows him to do much of his exercise at home.
The next challenge is college. Senft picked Penn because of its engineering program and handicap accessibility, including the state-of-the-art dorm in which he will reside.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Quakers have a fine lacrosse program. Coach Mike Murphy already has reached out to Senft.
“I’m sure I’ll be involved in some capacity,” Senft said. “I’ll see what I can do.”