It was an historic weekend for Penn men’s soccer — but not in the best of ways for the Quakers.
Taking on local rival Villanova on Friday, the Red and Blue fell, 5-3, at Rhodes Field. A quick turnaround Sunday at No. 12 Georgetown resulted in a 3-1 loss.
The consecutive losses pushed Penn to 0-6 — the worst start for men’s soccer since 1992.
“We created a lot of opportunities,” junior forward Stephen Baker said. “On Friday, we put away a lot of goals. [Sunday] we scored another nice goal. We had another couple opportunities to score, but we just need to tighten up our defense and limit our mistakes.”
There was a positive atmosphere at the start of Friday’s match. The bleachers were packed, the men’s basketball team came in chanting and the Quakers looked ready to take on the Wildcats (5-2).
“It was a great atmosphere,” Baker said. “It makes the game a lot more intense. It’s always a good game with ’Nova with the rivalry — two Philly schools battle it out. It was awesome playing in front of a big home crowd like that.”
It was a high-scoring match, and throughout the first half, Penn kept up with the ’Nova offense with goals from Mariano Gonzalez-Guerineau and Duke Lacroix. The Quakers took a 3-2 lead after Travis Cantrell netted the ball on a penalty kick just before halftime.
But in the second half, Penn couldn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities as Villanova made its way through the gaps to score three unanswered goals.
“We had the lead at the half, but I can’t sit here and say we had control of the game at that point,” coach Rudy Fuller said. “Both teams went at each other the entire game. … It looked like a Man City-Man United game.
“The soccer wasn’t the prettiest, but there was a lot of passion — both teams going 100 miles an hour up and down the field. It was a hell of a physical effort by our guys.”
In any game in which five goals are allowed, it is difficult to keep up.
“[Villanova has] a lot of really athletic [and] talented guys.” Fuller added. “Athletically, the matchups were a challenge for us … and they exposed it.”
Fuller noted that his squad needs to improve their overall defense and help each other in one-on-one situations.
Penn followed a similar pattern Sunday afternoon in Washington, D.C.
Though the game started slowly, it was still evenly played and the Quakers — with help from senior defender Bryan Yasukochi and eight overall saves by sophomore goalkeeper Max Kurtzman — kept up with Georgetown (7-0-1) and kept them under control. The No. 12 Hoyas scored first, but Penn quickly responded with a goal by Duke Lacroix.
But there was one Hoya the Quakers could not stop.
Near the end of the second half, Georgetown senior midfielder Andy Reimer scored twice to complete a hat trick.
“We weren’t able to get them under the pressure we wanted to get them under,” Fuller said. “They moved the ball very well, they defended very well. If you give a team like that time and space to play, they’re going to punish you for it, and that’s what happened.”
In order to prevent a continuation of this downward trend, major changes will be necessary this week, Fuller said, and the Quakers are looking toward the weekend’s Princeton Tournament as the next test.
“We always talk about the games being the test,” Fuller said. “Games are for the players — the test for the players to see how well they can execute what we want to do as a team. Clearly, sitting where we are, we are not doing a good enough job as coaches preparing them for these games.”
However, there is still a sense of optimism in the air.
“We’re not an 0-6 team,” Baker said. “Even though our record says we are, we know we can compete with really anybody. Georgetown is [the] No. 12 team in the country and we competed with them, and Villanova is 5-1 and we were right there with them.
“It’s basically a matter of where it all comes together and we start to really see the results that we believe we deserve.”