Women's soccer finishes season with win over Princeton
Victory improves Penn standing for an at-large bid into NCAA tournament
November 6, 2011, 11:56 pm·
Muyi Li | DP
While the emotions of senior night hung in the brisk air at Rhodes Field, the Penn women’s soccer team had business to attend to: a rival to beat, a home winning streak to extend and a championship to defend.
Though Penn did not capture another Ivy League title Saturday night, it was all smiles for the Quakers as they beat Princeton, 3-1, in front of a boisterous home crowd.
In order to have a chance at the Ivy title, Penn needed Harvard to lose to Columbia in a match played just after the Red and Blue’s win over the Tigers. However, lady luck would not be swayed by the Quakers’ cause as Columbia fell to the Crimson, 1-0.
Regardless of the Harvard outcome, however, the Princeton game would likely decide whether Penn would receive an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.
Ranked 62nd in the nation in RPI before the game, Penn would need to climb into the mid-50s to be considered for the tournament field. Saturday’s win kept the Quakers’ playoff hopes alive.
Appropriately so, Penn played like a team on a mission, battling for all 90 minutes in a tense thriller punctuated by two goals from senior forward Ursula Lopez-Palm.
In the early stages of the match, both teams struggled to find a rhythm. But out of the chaos, Lopez-Palm was able to craft a little magic in the 18th minute. She won a 50-50 ball away from a Princeton player, broke away and slipped the ball past the keeper.
Though Penn had a 1-0 lead at the half, something was missing from the Quakers’ play.
“At halftime, we really talked to each other, and we realized that skill isn’t going to win this game. … It’s just about having heart,” Lopez-Palm said.
Heart made all the difference, as the Quakers unleashed an offensive barrage to open the second half.
The Tigers could only hold off the Quakers’ onslaught for three-and-a-half minutes before junior Erin Beck received a pass in the middle from sophomore Kathryn Barth and smoothly chipped the ball over the Princeton keeper’s head to put Penn up, 2-0.
Princeton struck back with a goal of its own, as a streaking Jen Hoy headed in a cross from Sara Chehrehsa.
The goal was the first conceded by the Quakers’ at home since Sept. 30 against Cornell, ending a streak of more than eight-and-a-half hours of play without giving up a score.
But Lopez-Palm and the Quakers’ offense were not done yet. With seven minutes remaining, Lopez-Palm added a third score with a lob from the left side that caught the Princeton goalkeeper out of position and took one bounce into the back of the net.
“I think we’ve played better soccer, but it’s not about the quality of the soccer all the time,” coach Darren Ambrose said. “It’s about the discipline. It’s about courage and commitment, and I think that’s what separated us.”
Penn would not look back as it rode the 3-1 lead to a record-tying 14th win of the season.
After the game, Penn gathered for its fans to lead a singing of “The Red and Blue.” With their league title chances improbable at best and no guarantee of an NCAA tourney bid, the Quakers’ beaming faces told the whole story.
“Even if the worst happens, it’s not going to get us down. We had a great season, a great record, we worked hard and it felt good doing it,” Lopez-Palm said.
On homecoming weekend and senior night, a win was too sweet to think about anything but the moment, especially for the seven seniors.
“I can’t describe how good it feels to do what we just did against Princeton,” Lopez-Palm said. “It’s a historic rivalry, and damn it feels good.”