The streak is finally over.
The losing streak, that is.
The Penn men’s soccer team took on Rider Sunday to grab its second win of the season, 7-2, after gaining its first ‘W’ Friday against Fairleigh Dickinson as part of the Princeton Tournament.
In Friday’s matchup against the Knights (3-4-1), the Red and Blue (2-6) finally got out to and maintained a lead, though it didn’t come without a challenge.
Penn had a 3-0 advantage in the 84th minute, but Fairleigh Dickinson scored twice in a comeback attempt in the final six minutes.
“They are a dangerous team,” Penn coach Rudy Fuller said. “They’re a team that has come back already this season from down 3-0 to win 4-3, so [you’ve] got to play the full 90 minutes against them.”
This weekend, Stephen Baker scored his first goal of the season, and he had a career game Sunday, scoring four goals — the most by a Penn player in a game since 1977.
Sunday’s 7-2 rout of Rider (0-7) was led by the dynamic duo of Baker and sophomore Duke Lacroix, who together netted six of the team’s seven goals, the seventh coming from sophomore Mariano Gonzalez-Guerineau.
“There were a lot of guys that stepped up [Sunday] and played up to the level that we expect out of them,” Fuller said. “I’ve been saying all along that the goals were going to come from Duke and Baker, and they did today.
“As good as they were offensively, their defensive pressure set the tone for the rest of the team.”
Though the offense was on fire Sunday — scoring four goals off 10 shots in the first half and another three goals off eight in the second — there was also a shift in the defensive play.
“We have to look at our defending — even though we still gave up four goals in two games, it was a noticeably better performance with the pressure on the ball,” Fuller said. “We were winning the ball where the game was being played on the field … The defensive pressure was where it needed to be.”
This turnaround came at a point of frustration for theQuakers.
“We kind of sat down as a team after starting 0-6 and just said, ‘Guys, this is embarrassing, we’re a lot better of a team than this,’” Baker said. “We made some changes mentally … and we realized that if we’re going to make a run, we need to start working harder.”
Baker said the team has been working harder and making “sacrifices off the field.”
Lacroix agreed, adding that this weekend was all about a sense of urgency.
“It’s always great when your work cultivates some reward, and the goals this weekend [were] that reward,” he said.
Lacroix and Baker proved themselves Sunday, finding opportunities throughout the game.
After Penn had already taken a comfortable lead, Lacroix seized an opportunity for a long, unmatched goal after a botched punt by Rider goalkeeper Jason Giordano.
Later in the game, Baker scored on a missed save to push the ball wide by Giordano, as the ball bounced high and found its way into the net.
But it wasn’t just Baker and Lacroix who contributed. Alex Reddy and Kamar Saint-Louis stepped up and made statements that they need to be on the field, Fuller said. Nicky Yin and Jonny Dolezal were also “an immense force.”
“[Our win] was a combination of playing Rider and everybody was spot on, connecting passes and finding the ball and the next guy and finishing out opportunities,” Baker said.
The Quakers finally executed throughout the 90 minutes and have a final result that matched the quality team they can be.
“This weekend we were fed up with it, and that definitely showed in our play,” Lacroix said.
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