The dreary weekend weather was a fitting parallel to the Penn men’s soccer team’s opening weekend.
Following their 3-2 loss to Lafayette Friday at Rhodes Field, the Quakers fell again Sunday in double overtime to New Hampshire, 2-1.
The two losses marked the first time since 2003 that Penn dropped its first two home matches.
Friday, the Red and Blue came out slow in the first half, and Lafayette (1-2) capitalized, drawing first blood early.
“I would imagine that any team that plays another team in their home opener expects to be put under pressure, expects to face a lot of energy,” coach Rudy Fuller said. “We didn’t do either.
“I think if somebody was here in the first half, they might have thought it was Lafayette’s home opener.”
Down 2-1 to begin the second half, the Quakers came out with more vigor and out-possessed the Leopards. Despite the pressure, they were unable to find the back of the net, and Lafayette soon scored again, pushing a bobbled rebound past goalkeeper Tyler Kinn, who had a career-high five saves on the night.
Penn got a bit of a break when one Lafayette player was sent off after receiving a questionable red card, but the advantage wasn’t enough to turn the tide. Senior captain Travis Cantrell eventually scored Penn’s second goal, but it came with just 11 seconds remaining in the match.
“At this level, against a team like Lafayette, you don’t deserve to win if you can’t put together a full 90 [minutes],” he said, despite noting a second-half improvement.
Sunday’s match was reminiscent of the Quakers’ second half on Friday — they controlled possession for the majority of the game, but they struggled to push the ball deep into New Hampshire’s territory. Most of their shots came from outside the 18-yard box.
“The only thing we were missing was the killer pass in the final third,” said junior captain Jonny Dolezal, who missed the opener with an injury.
The Wildcats (2-2) had more promising chances in the first half, most notably a low-placed header off a corner that a diving Kinn turned away with his right hand.
New Hampshire struck first in the 50th minute on a header in the box off a free kick. But the Red and Blue were not done, as 22 minutes later, recent substitute and sophomore Mariano Gonzales-Guerineau finally produced that “killer pass.” It found Dolezal in the box, and he knotted up the score, 1-1, on his first career goal.
The visiting team clinched the win in the second sudden-death period with a bit a luck. With time winding down, Dolezal fell injured on the field. Before he could be switched out, the Wildcats scored the golden goal on a counter attack.
While Penn needs to be more efficient defending free kicks and in its attacking third, Sunday’s game may be more indicative of future performances.
“Next week is going to be a big test of character for us,” Dolezal said.
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