What better way is there to score your first collegiate goal than a sudden-death winner in double overtime?
Over the weekend, Penn’s women’s soccer team salvaged a split in its two-game California road stint, beating Sacramento State, 3-2, in double OT only two days after falling, 1-0, to No. 15 California on Friday.
Seventy-five seconds into the second sudden-death period against the Hornets (2-4-2), Elissa Berdini found fellow freshman Erin Mikolai in the box, who converted to clinch the game for the Quakers (3-3).
“It felt amazing,” Mikolai said. “This is my first goal as a freshman … it’s a really big step forward.”
The Quakers came out firing with six first-half shots, but the crossbar vexed them as a couple shots rattled off the posts. Despite the pressure, the Quakers found themselves in a 1-0 hole at the half.
But even in 90-degree weather, Penn refused to wither. In the 74th minute, Berdini snapped what had been a 356-minute scoring drought for the Red and Blue with a blistering volley off a corner.
Just four minutes later, Penn struck again.
Junior Kathryn Barth, whose eight goals last season tied for the team lead, connected off another corner for her first score of the season to put the Quakers up, 2-1.
But with 92 seconds left in regulation, Sacramento State converted on a two-on-one rush to tie the game at the death.
A late equalizer often demoralizes a team, but the Red and Blue showed their mental toughness as the game pressed on into overtime.
“We came together as a team and literally told each other, ‘It’s our time. We’re tired of losing. We’re tired of tying. It’s our time to win,’” Mikolai said.
Penn was the more aggressive squad in the extra periods, outshooting the Hornets, 3-1.
Mikolai’s score put an end to the Quakers’ three-game skid and brought them back to .500 on the season.
“I was really pleased,” coach Darren Ambrose said on his team keeping the pressure up through overtime. “It was a real bit of character that we needed to show, and they showed it.”
While the Quakers did not earn a win on Friday, their performance was impressive nonetheless. They pressured the top-25 Golden Bears (6-2) for a full 90 minutes, creating several promising chances. But they were unable to capitalize on those chances, as had been the case with their previous two games.
“We’re creating chances against the best opponents we face,” Ambrose said. “It’s just been a matter of persevering.”
After a plethora of offensive production on Sunday, the Quakers can put their scoring worries to rest for now. And it’s coming at the perfect time, as they’ll need to carry the momentum into their first Ivy matchup: a home battle against Harvard, and a rematch of the game that ultimately decided the Ivy champion last year.
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