Two weekends ago, the Penn women’s soccer team faded in the second half while playing on an opponent’s turf.
The Quakers would not make that mistake for a second consecutive week.
After a lackluster performance at Dartmouth on Oct. 13, Penn responded Saturday with a commanding 2-0 victory over Yale (7-7, 1-4 Ivy) in New Haven, Conn.
“We really stepped it up, especially after our performance against Dartmouth,” forward Kathryn Barth said. “We came out, especially in the second half, with much more fight to our game and much more … competitive spirit than we have in the past.”
Following a Yale own goal early in the second half, Barth gave the Quakers (8-5-1, 4-1) some breathing room in the 80th minute when she capitalized on a cross by Clara Midgley that rebounded off the goalie. The junior converted the loose ball for her third goal of the season and gave the Quakers a two-goal lead.
Though Penn failed to get on the board in the first half, they settled down and took control of the game in the second, outshooting Yale, 9-2.
“At halftime, we … encouraged our kids just to take more chances and to remember how hard they’ve practiced in the attacking part of the game during the week,” coach Darren Ambrose said. “And all of the sudden it was a different game. We absolutely dominated the half, start to finish.”
With the win over the Bulldogs, Penn tallied its first multi-goal game since a 4-0 rout of NJIT on Sept. 30. The increase in offensive production could be attributed to the adjustments made by the team following its loss to the Big Green.
“The improvements we made in this week alone were huge, even this late in the season,” Barth said.
The changes included a shift from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-3-3, which boosted Penn’s presence in the offensive third of the field and upped the pressure on the Yale backline. This type of fine-tuning could bolster Penn’s offense in a year with low production for a squad within reach of an Ivy League title.
The victory over Yale represents just the third time the Quakers have defeated the Bulldogs on the road, which is significant when considering that Penn’s chances for a championship will likely come down to a road match against Princeton.
“[Yale is] just as tough an environment as Princeton,” Barth said. “It was great to build our confidence, being able to pull off a commanding win at such a hard place on the road.”
Though sophomores Midgley and Megan York are still searching for their first scores of the season, they each made their presence known against the Bulldogs, playing a role in both of the Quakers’ scores. Midgley contributed the assist on Barth’s goal, while one of York’s headers went to Callan Parra and a Yale defender, ultimately resulting in the own goal.
With two games remaining, Penn still controls its own destiny, and its greatest test of the season still awaits the Quakers in the form of a Princeton squad that has gone undefeated in Ivy League play thus far.
But in order to contend for a title, the Red and Blue must first defeat Brown — a team that played Penn to a 0-0 draw in miserable weather conditions last season.
In order to put the bumps and bruises of the first 13 games behind the team, Ambrose proposed a three-game season mental approach: Practice and play for a three-week period as if Yale, Brown and Princeton represent the Quakers’ schedule for an entire year.
“It’s a three-game season,” Ambrose said. “You win one, now it’s a two-game season. You win another one against Brown, you got a chance to win an Ivy League championship.
“And that’s what every athlete aspires to in our program.”