Forty-one times this season the Penn women’s soccer Twitter account has used the tag “#unlucky.”
Those tweets refer to the dozens of offensive opportunities that — by sheer chance — have ultimately been stifled.
Despite that, the Quakers are showing they don’t need luck to win.
In a match between two unbeaten Ivy squads at Rhodes Field, Penn emerged victorious from a 90-minute bout with a 1-0 win over Columbia on Friday night.
Sunday, despite 11 shots on goal, the Red and Blue played a surging Saint Francis squad to a 1-1 draw in Loretto, Pa. The Red Flash (8-4-2) entered the match riding a six-game winning streak, with their most recent loss coming on Sept. 14.
The Quakers’ lone score against Columbia (6-6, 2-1 Ivy) came in the 67th minute from junior Kerry Scalora, when midfielder Erin Beck gathered a loose ball off a Penn corner kick and dished it out to Scalora along the sideline.
While the Columbia defense probably thought Scalora would send the ball back in on a cross, she instead took matters into her own hands and rocketed a shot over the head of the Lions’ 6-foot-2 goalkeeper Grace Redmon and into the goal.
The score was Scalora’s third of the season. All have been game-winners.
After a scattered opening frame, the Quakers (7-4-1, 3-0) responded in the second half by adding an extra midfielder to their formation, and as Columbia’s energy wore down, Penn’s play improved. Coach Darren Ambrose was pleased not only with the result, but also with the quality of play in the second half.
“I think it’s as good a 45 minutes as we’ve put together,” he said.
The win marks the first time the Quakers have strung multiple wins together against Columbia since 2000-01.
Columbia’s best scoring opportunity came in the first half when a header forced Penn keeper Sarah Banks to make a diving save. But overall, serious offensive opportunities for the Lions were sparse.
Now tied with Princeton atop the Ivy standings at 3-0, Penn continues to win by close margins — four of its last five wins have come by one goal.
Ambrose, however, is adamant that this is no reason for the team to alter its approach.
“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. … We just have to continue to do the same things,” he said. “How many more balls can we get blocked on the goal line? How many can get kicked out from the six-yard box? It can’t go on all season.”
Despite the close matches, Penn’s confidence is steadily improving, especially as role players assert themselves. Defender Brianna Rano’s free kicks from the right side are a consistent offensive threat, and freshmen such as Erin Mikolai and Jazmyne Simmons have looked progressively more at ease on the field.
That confidence will be crucial entering a stretch of Ivy road games on consecutive weeks against Dartmouth and Yale.
“It’s nice having the confidence of wins with you, because losing really wears on the mentality over a few weeks, and when you’re on the road and away from home, it’s even harder,” Beck said.
Regardless of how the team wins, the reality remains that the Quakers are undefeated in Ivy play and feeling stronger with each game.
“I think we’re starting to figure out who we are,” Ambrose said. “And we’re pretty good.”
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