It’s soccer season in University City.
Penn women’s soccer opens its season this weekend with two games — one away against Mount St. Mary’s and one home against Old Dominion — giving the team two chances to start out on the right foot.
The season is young, so the Quakers are trying to focus on more short-term goals before setting their eyes on an Ivy League championship or an NCAA berth. Right now, the team is taking every practice and game one day at a time.
“We are kind of just starting small,” senior back Haley Cooper said.
The team is untested, with nine new players — including eight freshman and one junior transfer student — filling out the 27-person roster. At this point in the season, nothing is settled on the roster front.
According to coach Darren Ambrose, the first few games of the season give the Quakers a chance to find the optimal formation and lineup before conference play opens against defending Ivy League champion Harvard on Sept. 27.
“We want to see how the girls [play] before we decide on a final system,” he 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.”
Penn’s first game of the weekend will be away on Friday against Mount St. Mary’s (0-4). The Mount is coming into the match against Penn off of a close 0-1 loss to Lehigh last Sunday.
The last time Penn took on the Mount, the Quakers emerged with a 4-0 victory. This year, the Red and Blue is hoping for a repeat outcome to bolster the young team’s confidence.
Then, on Sunday, the Quakers will play Old Dominion (0-2) in their home opener at Rhodes Field at 2 p.m. This year marks the second time the Quakers have played the Monarchs after first meeting last year in Norfolk, Va.
When the two teams played in 2013, Penn came back from a two-goal deficit in regulation to tie the game at 2-2. Despite outshooting the Monarchs, 17-7, Penn was unable to take the upper hand in either of the two overtime periods. The game ended in a tie, the Quakers’ second consecutive draw of the season.
This year, the Red and Blue is hoping for a slightly different outcome and Cooper, one of the team’s three captains, knows the importance of the weekend.
“It would be good to get two wins the first weekend, both away and home,” she said.
Starting the season with a winning 2-0 record could help the Quakers gain momentum before they face Harvard later this month. Last year, the Crimson was responsible for the sole loss on Penn’s 5-1-1 conference record.
While it is still too soon to make any promises about what will happen come November, the Quakers have their sights set far beyond this opening weekend.
“Obviously,” said Cooper, “an Ivy League title is in the back of our minds.”
For now, though, Penn is just looking to take its first step towards a winning record this season.