Mariano Gonzalez-Guerineau knows the drill.
For the second straight year, the sophomore and his teammates on the Penn men’s soccer team reach the fourth Ivy game all but mathematically out of contention for a title.
On Saturday, the Quakers (2-10, 0-3 Ivy) head to New Haven, Conn., to take on Yale (3-7-3, 0-2-1). Even though Penn’s expectations have been tempered, Gonzalez-Guerineau understands that this match and the rest of the games this season hold plenty of significance for a young squad still struggling to gel.
Gonzalez-Guerineau experienced this firsthand when he was a rookie for the Red and Blue last year.
“As a freshman, I had a lot of high expectations for myself, even though I knew that college, Division I, was a whole different ball game,” he said.
“There were a couple of guys on the team that were big time, so I learned quickly that it would be hard to start playing right away.”
Though Christian Barreiro and others stood in his way of starting, by the halfway point Gonzalez-Guerineau was getting about 20 minutes per game as a substitute coming in for sophomore Duke Lacroix and now-captain Travis Cantrell.
The coaching staff helped keep Gonzalez-Guerineau motivated, even when he was playing sparse minutes.
“They scheduled individual meetings before, during and after the season,” he said. “During those meetings, they remind you why they recruited you. They kept me playing at the best level I can.”
Gonzalez-Guerineau came into this year in the same situation as his freshman year. But after two games, he was awarded the starting nod by coach Rudy Fuller.
“Mariano has a confidence on the ball, to run at guys, to make things happen,” Fuller said. “He hasn’t disappointed in regards to that.”
In those seven starts, he’s scored two goals and also notched an assist, while playing alongside the guys he used to relieve off the bench.
“We have guys that are tough to replace, but it’s always good and healthy for guys to compete, since no one has a spot guaranteed,” Gonzalez-Guerineau said. “Certainly, this year it’s great to not replace but [rather] to be on the same pitch as those guys.”
But even after earning the starting position that he coveted as a freshman, Gonzalez-Guerineau has yet again been forced to curb his expectations based on the start to the season.
Considering Penn’s record, it’d be easy for the team to simply wait for next year. But with all but two Quakers on the current roster set to return next season, these next few games are vital, and the players know it.
“We still have to finish the season off with our chins high up,” Gonzalez-Guerineau said. “There are still four games to go, and the remaining games are still going to determine what kind of team we are.”