Just under three weeks ago, coach Darren Ambrose prophesized that when Megan York scored her first goal of the season, it would be “a big one.”
His prediction could not have been more accurate.
On Saturday evening against Brown, York ended Senior Night in dramatic fashion, winning the game for Penn by netting her first goal of the season in overtime. The 1-0 victory at Rhodes Field ensured the Quakers will play for a share of the Ivy League championship on Nov. 3 at Princeton.
After ranking among Penn’s top scorers last season with five goals, York has experienced a 16-game scoring drought dating back to Oct. 26, 2011, against Lehigh.
The sophomore forward could not have chosen a more opportune moment to end her scoreless streak.
“I’m so happy for [York], because she has cried. She has felt guilty. She’s felt frustration. She’s gone through a whole range of emotions, and yet she scored the one that gives us a chance,” Ambrose said. “I couldn’t be happier for her. She was carrying a lot of weight on her shoulders.”
The lone score of the game came 4:28 into the first period of overtime. Senior back Erin Thayer played a pass in the air into the goal box, and a Brown defender attempted to clear the cross by heading the ball away from the goal. Instead, York intercepted the ball, and in one motion deftly chested the ball to her feet, turned and fired the ball across the face of the goal with her left foot.
The shot found the back of the net before the Brown goalkeeper had the chance to react. The Penn sideline erupted and the Quakers’ players and coaches streamed onto the field to celebrate. York was tackled to the ground by her teammates.
The emotions of Senior Night made the win particularly powerful for the Quakers (9-5-1, 5-1 Ivy), including seniors Thayer, Erin Beck, Sarah Banks and Alex Dayneka. The group will graduate having recorded more Ivy League wins than any other class in program history, not to mention a league championship in 2010.
Ambrose praised the seniors for setting a tone of hard work and high expectations throughout their careers at Penn.
“Their work ethic is second to none — every one of them,” Ambrose said. “They’ve never flinched from being asked to do more.”
While Beck was flattered to discover her class’ place in Penn history, she felt the group’s success highlighted, more than anything, the development of the program in recent years.
“Every class that goes through is just going to see more and more wins because that’s the direction our program is going,” she said.
Though Brown (7-8, 1-5) held the game to a tie for 94 minutes, Penn controlled the match and very nearly scored on several occasions throughout regulation. York tallied five shots overall, and shots on goal by Erin Mikolai and Kerry Scalora required diving saves from the Brown keeper to keep the Quakers scoreless in the first 90 minutes.
With the game knotted at zero for so long, it seemed the match might go the way of last season’s matchup against the Bears, when Penn tied Brown, 0-0, while playing in adverse weather conditions.
The tie upset the Quakers’ chances of playing for the Ivy League championship, which made Saturday night’s win all the more important for returning players.
“I can’t even articulate how miserable the weather was that day. It was like ice on the field,” Beck said. “It was unfortunate that such a wonderful season was kind of spoiled by a game that really didn’t amount to soccer. So it was a little bit about revenge [Saturday]. And to have it at home on a beautiful night where it was about soccer was great.”
Princeton and Dartmouth also won their matches, keeping the Tigers ahead of Penn and the Big Green by one game entering the final week of conference play. If Penn beats Princeton on the road and Dartmouth wins, the three teams will share the Ivy League championship.
However, in the event of a three-way tie, the recipient of NCAA tournament bid will be decided much differently: by pulling a team’s name out of a hat, according to Ivy League representative Trevor Rutledge-Leverenz.
Of course, that scenario will first require the Quakers to beat Princeton on the Tigers’ own turf. Regardless of the outcome next weekend, Ambrose was exceedingly pleased with the performance of his team in reaching this point.
“I’m just proud of our program that we are going to Princeton to play for another championship,” Ambrose said. “You can’t ask anything more of a program. You can’t ask anything more of your kids, of your staff. It’s everything we want.”