When Penn men’s soccer takes the pitch at Rhodes Field to begin their season on Friday, it’ll be against a familiar foe. On Saturday, it’ll be the opposite.
The Quakers start with a tough nonconference matchup Friday against Drexel in the 41st meeting between the local rivals, while Central Connecticut State will make its first trip to Penn for the second match of the University City Classic Sunday.
Yet whether it’s the 41st or initial meeting between programs, coach Rudy Fuller and his team have a similar attitude in terms of their preparations.
“Whether we’re playing Drexel or we’re playing Central Connecticut, right now it’s about us.” Fuller said. “These are our first two games, and we need to figure out where we’re heading and where we are, and these two teams will give us a good test.”
Drexel (1-0) provides an interesting challenge as a team coming off an eerily similar season to Penn’s last year; the Dragons won the CAA championship and finished with a 9-8-4 overall record and a loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
In last year’s meeting, the Quakers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and held on for the 3-2 victory after a late run by Drexel brought the Dragons within a goal. Drexel’s first match of the season was a 1-0 overtime victory over Temple (1-1).
“I don’t think there are many secrets between Drexel and Penn,” Fuller said. “Doug Hess and myself are very close friends and talk about the game a lot and talk about our teams a lot.
“It should be a really exciting game for Philadelphia. There should be a good crowd here from Drexel and a good crowd here from Penn”
Meanwhile, Central Connecticut State (1-0) will be more of an unknown for the Quakers, though that’s a double-edged blade for the opponents. The Blue Devils finished the year with the best regular season record in the NEC, but they lost in the first round of the conference tournament as St. Francis (N.Y.) won its way into the NCAA Tournament.
However, the unknowns for the Quakers don’t entirely come from the other side of the pitch.
One of the biggest question marks for the Quakers arises from the loss of graduated senior leadership. With a goal of maintaining their Ivy League title and returning to the NCAA Tournament, senior midfield Louis Schott and the rest of the senior class are now at the helm of the program.
Though only time will truly tell whether the team manages to sustain its excellent performance from last season, it certainly has strong hopes for its new freshman class.
“Our class has stepped up well — we came in pretty organized,” Schott said. “The new guys coming in have been good, a confident and pretty fearless group, so we’re excited to see what they can do.”
The attitude for Penn is simple going into the weekend, according to Schott.
“We’ve put a lot of hard work in, we’re really ready to get going.”