Baker and Reddy | From Ivy chumps to league champs for Penn men's soccer
The Quakers bounced back from a tough 2012 season to a successful 2013 campaign
December 2, 2013, 10:12 pm · Updated December 3, 2013, 9:28 pm·
Patrick Hulce | DP
After a 2012 season to forget, our 2013 season turned out to be one that none of us will ever forget.
What made our success this season so meaningful was that it was a collective effort. All the right components came together at the right moments, and from A to Z, everyone on the team contributed and helped us to achieve our goals. Every game had a different storyline. From dramatic, late-game winners to decisive, commanding victories and even some slight hiccups along the way, each game played out differently.
We can’t point to just one single player, or even a small group of guys, who made winning this title possible. Every night, someone new stepped up to help us win. And it was the guys who don’t get all the press, the ones whom many don’t know about, that deserve a lot of the credit.
After losing our first six games to start the 2012 season — in which we finished 3-13 overall — we realized that it was crucial to start off the 2013 campaign with a positive result. We came out strong, shutting out Stony Brook and Sacred Heart in our first two matches. Both were games in which we were the better team and played like it. Riding the momentum from these two wins, we headed out to California to play two perennial powerhouses in Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara. Although both were one-goal games, we found ourselves on the losing end of both. This was the start of a stretch of unfortunate results. After starting 2-0, we found ourselves 2-6 after our first eight games — exactly where we were the year before.
When we walked off the field following a 2-0 loss to Florida International, we realized that we had two options: continue with how we had been playing and hope for better results, or make some changes. We all agreed that something needed to change.
In our next game against Drexel, five players made their first career starts. This would not be a walk-in-the-park game either, as Drexel would turn out to be the 2013 Colonial Athletic Association Champions, and entered the game riding a five-game win streak. We finally put together a complete effort for 90 minutes, winning 3-2. Having lost four one-goal games already, this was exactly the result we needed and deserved less than 72 hours before kicking off our Ivy League season.
After starting the Ivy slate 3-0-1, we lost our first league game to Brown. This knocked us out of first place, put Harvard into first and us into a tie for second with Princeton. With only two league games remaining (Princeton and Harvard), we still had control of our destiny. Our coaches did an excellent job instilling confidence in us and remaining positive. They also provided us with accurate scouting reports that allowed us to effectively exploit opponents’ weaknesses, resulting in our team’s success. They were undoubtedly the orchestrators of this championship.
Although we went down a goal in the first half against Princeton, we showed the character and grit that we had been developing since the end of our 2012 season. We fought back and won 2-1. The heart that we played with against Princeton proved to us that the only team who could beat us was ourselves. Needing a win at Harvard, we knew we had come too far not to get the result that we deserved.
And we showed we were ready to roll from the very start. We created several opportunities to score and put away two in the first 12 minutes. This 2-0 lead would prove to be enough, and we knew we wholeheartedly deserved the title that we had just earned – Ivy League Champions.
This program has come a long way since last season, in which we endured the worst record in Penn history. The turnaround started last year, immediately after the 2012 season ended, with a shift in mentality and an understanding that success requires sacrifice and commitment.
After the 2012 season, the rising seniors and coaches had weekly meetings in which we discussed how to change the culture of our program and how to get the rest of the team on board with our revamped, more fitness-oriented spring schedule and new goal of working more efficiently than ever before.
From the seniors who provided excellent leadership, all the way down to the freshmen who ultimately proved nothing short of a revelation, every player on our team bought into the idea that hard work and confidence are the cornerstones of a successful team.
It’s difficult to explain in words how much this championship means to the team. Some of us have been toiling away for the past four years for this moment. The coaching staff and Penn soccer alumni have been waiting even longer, this being the program’s first outright championship since 1972. Our win at Harvard was validating, emotional, satisfying and so much more.
And it meant so very much because we did it together and couldn’t have done it any other way. Our coach told us right before we took the field against Harvard that life is all about special moments and the people you share those moments with. This Ivy League championship is truly something special and we can’t think of a greater group of guys to share it with.
Stephen Baker is a senior communications major from Fairport, N.Y., and was captain of Penn men’s soccer’s 2013 Ivy championship team. Alex Reddy is a senior biology major from Birmingham, Ala., and was a member of the Penn 2013 Ivy championship team.