First win for Penn soccer could come Friday
Coach Rudy Fuller says the defense needs to step up for Penn’s success
September 21, 2012, 1:29 am · Updated September 21, 2012, 1:29 am·
Patrick Hulce | DP
Friday, the Quakers will attempt to avoid a spot in the record books.
At 0-6, the Penn men’s soccer team has matched the worst start to a season in program history. The 1992 squad also dropped its first six games, but no team has ever lost its first seven matches in the program’s history.
The Red and Blue hope to keep it that way this weekend, as they face Fairleigh Dickinson and Rider at the Princeton Tournament.
Despite early-season setbacks, this weekend is more of an opportunity to turn the season around than to salvage the year. The Quakers have looked promising, especially as of late.
Last Friday, they scored three goals against Villanova, followed by a game with Georgetown on Sunday. Penn matched the Hoyas, who just edged up to No. 9 in the national rankings, through the first 75 minutes on away turf.
While Fairleigh Dickinson (3-2-1) and Rider (0-5) will be good tests, they will likely not prove to be as formidable as Penn’s past two opponents.
Penn’s year has thus far been a tale of two sides of the pitch. The Red and Blue have notched at least one goal in each of their first six games — in fact, they are tied with Dartmouth for the second-most goals of any Ivy team thus far. As coach Rudy Fuller noted, there’s reason to expect more firepower going forward.
“Between [our forwards], they have over  shots in six games, which is an enormous number to only have two goals to show for it,” Fuller said, talking about the junior-sophomore tandem of Stephen Baker and Duke Lacroix.
“[They’re] two of the best forwards in the country — certainly the best forward pairing in the league — and they just have to keep creating opportunities, and the goals are going to start to come,” Fuller added.
While the Red and Blue anticipate more from their attacking front, their real concern is in the backfield.
“We’ve got to be better defensively,” Fuller said bluntly. “We’re sitting here at 0-6, and it’s because of our defensive performances,” he said, noting his team has to pressure the ball more.
Thus far, the Quakers have allowed nearly three goals per game for a total of 17 on the season.
“I’ve had multiple seasons here where we haven’t allowed 17 goals in 17 games,” Fuller said. “We’ve allowed 17 in six games.”
Junior co-captain Jonny Dolezal noted the team has been especially focused this week.
“It’s embarrassing to sit there and be 0-6,” he said.
Dolezal said practice “has been very intense compared to prior weeks,” adding that the team has concentrated on making sure everyone on the pitch is on the same page mentally.
The Quakers’ two games this weekend, followed by a meeting with Drexel on Wednesday, are their final non-conference games before the Ivy schedule begins.
“This will hopefully build our confidence, [and] we can get some wins over the weekend going into Ivy League play,” Dolezal said.