The goal? More goals, finishing from the start for Penn women's soccer
Offensive frustrations from a season ago have the Quakers focused on netting more in 2013
September 5, 2013, 8:47 pm · Updated September 5, 2013, 11:34 pm·
Zoe Goldberg | DP
In coach Darren Ambrose’s office hangs a plaque that he takes great pride in. It’s from the NCAA and vertically lists the Quakers’ gaudy defensive stats from 2011 — the 13 shutouts, seven goals allowed and Division I-leading 0.77 shutout percentage. Just reciting these stats back to Ambrose makes him passionately explain his defense-first mindset, how as a goalkeeper in college his team gave up five goals the entire season to lead the country.
Every year, Penn’s defense is up to snuff with the very best of them. Last year, though, Penn’s offense didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
After scoring 39 goals in 2011, the Quakers mustered just 22 in 2012. In fact, they notched just four first-half goals in last season’s 16-game slate, far too low for a team that was already returning seven of its 10 goal-scorers from the previous year.
“Yeah, you know what? We’d like to see that improve,” Ambrose said. “It is something I want them to be conscious of and just a little bit unhappy about. If you’re happy with that, there’s no place in the program for them.”
Senior captain Kerry Scalora isn’t happy.
“At the end of last season, I myself took it personally that we didn’t score many goals last year,” she said. “I remember Darren saying this was the worst amount of goals this team has ever had.”
But Scalora put Penn in plenty of positions to score goals last season. Her 50 shots last season ranked fifth among Ivies, and her 3.13 shots per game ranked fourth. Those 50 shots were also more than the tallies of the next two players – junior Megan York and sophomore Erin Mikolai – combined.
Scalora’s powerful left foot and aggressiveness will likely make her the focal point of this offense again in 2013, two years after she tore her ACL midseason.
“It was a coming back year for me so I was taking a lot of shots,” Scalora said. “The fact that I was taking more shots doesn’t mean there’s a drop-off in talent.”
“I don’t look too much at shots and things like that. We do look at chances,” Ambrose said. “Kerry has more shots because that’s Kerry’s mentality. She’s that kind of kid. Erin Mikolai is more of a, ‘How can I put somebody else in a good spot?’ Kerry’s first thought because of the strength of her left foot is, if she’s within 30 yards of the goal, she’s gonna shoot. And we’re gonna encourage that.”
What was less encouraging last season was the scoring drop-off around Scalora from 2011. Senior Kathryn Barth’s goal total dipped from eight to three, junior Callan Parra’s dipped from four to zero and York’s fell from five to one.
“I’m pretty sure it’s in the back of her mind,” Ambrose said of York’s offensive struggles a year ago. “I think to be honest with you, the number of goals we scored didn’t do justice to the abilities that we think we had.”
“You’re going to see a big improvement in the number of goals this season,” York promised.
York has plenty of returning reasons to be confident – 10 different Quakers scored goals last year and all 10 return for 2013. That includes sophomore Elissa Berdini, who impressed Ambrose in her freshman campaign with her shrewd chance-taking and change-of-pace energy. Also on the rise is Mikolai, whose ball-handling and technical savvy made her a standout early and often in 2012.
“I think we’ve got greater balance already this year,” Ambrose said. “We were relying on some younger players as well [in 2012].”
So with this program’s defensive principles characteristically at the forefront and last year’s offensive failures at the back of their minds, these Quakers are primed to put up a few more numbers that Ambrose can be proud of — only on the attack this time.
“They’re all a little bit disappointed,” Ambrose said. “And they’re all back.”