As the Penn women’s soccer team prepares for its season opener against Mount St. Mary’s on Sept. 5, it is looking to build on the program’s culture of success.
Coach Darren Ambrose explains that the Red and Blue always have the expectation of “competing at the top of the league.”
“[That] resonates with all of our players,” he said. “I think the younger players coming in came here because they knew they could compete to win a league title.”
Last year the Quakers came up just short of that goal, finishing second in the Ivy League behind Harvard. The women’s team had a heartbreaking end to their season, just missing an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament despite a 5-1-1 conference record.
In 2013, Penn’s offense was led by recently graduated forward Kerry Scalora, who notched six goals and three assists in 16 games played.
In the absence of Scalora’s dynamic play-making ability on the pitch, Ambrose expects his younger and perhaps more untested players to redefine the Quaker’s attacking strategy.
“When big characters leave the program and graduate or when key contributors move on, it also kind of thins the forest for all of the trees to grow,” he said.
He is looking forward to the return of one key contributor in particular: senior midfielder Katilyn Moore.
“[Moore] is such a presence and force on the field, leads by example and brings a physical presence to the game that few players can do,” he said.
Moore, a co-captain of the 2014 squad, missed the end of the season in 2013 due to a knee injury. According to Ambrose, the senior is finally healthy and will be ready to play during the Quaker’s season opener.
In addition to the return of Moore, Ambrose has high hopes for the rest of the team’s returning starters.
“Obviously [forward] Clara Midgley and [midfielder] Erin Mikolai we fully expect to pick up some of the slack, but we’ve got some players that we haven’t seen,” he said.
These unseen players include eight incoming freshmen and junior back Paige Lombard, a transfer student from Miami. Penn’s two-week preseason will give Ambrose a glimpse at just what his team can do on attack and how his players best work together.
“We want to see how the girls are before we decide on a final system,” Ambrose said.
“We want to see who complements who so that we’ve got a system that allows us to maximize the depth of our roster.”
Defensively, Penn will rely on the already established success of it junior class. Last season, back Caroline Dwyer and goalkeeper Kalijah Terilli both earned first team All-Ivy honors. This year, the duo will continue serving as stalwarts of the Quakers’ backfield.
In 2013, Terilli allowed just seven goals in 15 games. Over the summer, she was one of four goalies named to the United States Under-23 training camp, which took place at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.
Dwyer had a similarly eventful summer; she was one of just 35 players in Division I Women’s Soccer named to the Mac Herman Trophy watch list. The award, regarded as the most prestigious honor in collegiate soccer, is given to one male and one female player each season.
Much of Penn’s game plan remains unshaped, but with a new season on the horizon, the prospect of cultivating winning chemistry amongst the 26-member team doesn’t worry Ambrose in the slightest.
“It is a very exciting time as a coach.”