A sudden reversal of fortune has made Penn the desperate team in this year’s matchup with Yale.
Saturday, the Quakers (6-5-2, 1-2 Ivy) will host the Bulldogs (6-5-2, 2-1) in what could very well be the decisive game of the season.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” said senior Christian Barreiro, who added that “every Ivy game is a battle.”
Last season, the Red and Blue were undefeated in the conference heading into the Yale game, while the Bulldogs were 1-2.
In that game, Barreiro almost single-handedly beat Yale, scoring once and recording an assist in a 2-0 win.
This time around, both Penn and Yale are coming off tough conference losses against Dartmouth and Cornell, respectively. And again, Barreiro is hot coming in, having scored in each of the past three contests.
For coach Rudy Fuller, the focus has shifted toward the Bulldogs, but it’s clear that the Quakers haven’t changed their mentality.
“The approach to the game is the same. We want to go in and win the game,” Fuller said. “We feel good about how we’ve been playing.”
His players certainly feel the same way.
“I don’t think we’re going to take a different approach,” Barreiro commented. “We’re coming in with a lot of energy.”
Despite the fact that Penn is currently sixth in the standings — behind Cornell at 3-0 and four teams at 2-1 — the team’s only objective is to win against the Elis.
“We’ve got to take it one game at a time,” Barreiro said.
Yale has lost five in a row against the Quakers, who lead the overall series 48-40-8 and intend to keep the streak going.
“We need to give them a second loss,” Fuller remarked.
Penn will need to score for that to occur, a task not so easy against Yale goalkeeper Bobby Thalman. He currently leads the league in saves with 64 — a staggering average of 5.33 per game — and in save percentage (.853).
“[Barreiro] is going to play well,” Fuller said. “He’s an experienced player, clearly one of our best attacking players.”
For his team to come away with a victory, the coach thinks the Red and Blue will need to “make sure that [they] are very good … on those critical moments of each game — those restarts in both boxes.”
On defense, Penn will have to contain Yale’s Peter Jacobson, who leads the team with five goals.
Goalie Max Kurtzman, who just earned Ivy Rookie of the Week honors, will be at the center of this effort. So will senior defender Jake Levin and captain Thomas Brandt.
Against a strong defensive team like Yale, one small mistake could be too much to overcome.