Penn men’s soccer is looking to repeat history this weekend.
While the Quakers do not want a repeat of last weekend’s two home losses — which opened their season with an 0-2 record at Rhodes Field for the first time since 2003 — they do hope to remain the reigning champions of the Penn Soccer Classic. This weekend, the tournament includes Air Force, Hartford and Villanova.
“Historically, we’ve done very well in our own tournament and we want to keep that going,” coach Rudy Fuller said. “Anytime you play at home, you want to play well in front of home fans and get good results.”
Though the ultimate goal of the weekend is to take the Classic title for the ninth straight year., the Quakers have their eyes set solely on Friday’s match against Air Force (0-2-1), a team they have never played.
Last weekend, the Falcons fell to Drexel, 2-1, in double overtime. Like Penn, Air Force got behind early in the second half and couldn’t capitalize in extra minutes.
“We’re expecting them to be a solid team,” junior forward Stephen Baker said. “We know they competed well with Drexel, so we’re looking forward to it.”
As Penn is taking the tournament one game at a time, the focus on Hartford will be saved for film review and practice on Saturday, leading up to Sunday’s match.
“We haven’t looked forward too much to Hartford, but every game is going to be a battle, so we’ve just got to come out and grind wins out,” Baker said. “It’s not always the team with the most skills that wins it. It’s who wants it more, works harder and just goes the extra inch or two.”
Friday’s game against the Falcons is the only thing standing between the Quakers’ first win of the season or their first 0-3 start since 2007.
“We’ve got to take care of business on both ends of the field,” Fuller said. “We can’t give away easy goals. We have to make teams earn the goals that they do score and we want to put the ball in the net more than we have been.”
Then comes the challenge of Hartford (2-2), which is coming off two consecutive wins.
The big threat comes from junior forwards David Bernhardsson and Anthony Santaga, who are the leading scorers for the Hawks and were crucial in last weekend’s victories.
In both games, getting to an early lead and maintaining it is crucial in avoiding a repeat of last week’s events. Against both Lafayette and New Hampshire, the Quakers gave up the first goal and couldn’t come back.
For Fuller and the rest of his squad, this weekend is about more than just improving their record — it’s about the pride and gratification that comes with winning the Penn Soccer Classic on their home turf.
“We have two good teams coming to play us at our place,” Fuller said. “We’ve got to be ready to out-work and out-compete them at the very least and then hopefully let the soccer take over.”