Sunday was a day of firsts for Penn women’s soccer at Rhodes Field.
First game of the 2015 season. First career goals for Sasha Stephens and Lauren Petite. First game for new coach Nicole Van Dyke.
And probably most importantly, the first win of the year for the Quakers, as they defeated Seton Hall in a weekend matinee, 3-1.
It took Penn (1-0-0) all of four minutes to put themselves in front, when sophomore transfer Lauren Petite notched her first goal wearing the Red and Blue. The former TCU midfielder caught Pirates’ goalkeeper Gina Maiorana flat-footed and lobbed a shot from 30 yards out that found the back of the net.
“Petite did an amazing job today,” Van Dyke said. “She recognized that the keeper was out, and that early goal really set the tone for the game going forward.
“I think our offense did a nice job in general of executing the scouting report, and as coaches that is what we want to see — our players being students of the game.”
The Quakers would continue to control the run of play through most of the early stages of the first half, and their persistence was rewarded in the 16th minute when a bouncing ball in the box took several deflections and landed at the feet of freshman forward Sasha Stephens for an easy goal.
“I know I am very happy with the way the offense was able to perform today, and what we’ve been working on in practice I think was really reflected in the game,” Stephens said. “With all the different forwards and attacking players that we have, it was nice to find a combination that worked well, and we were able to just get going.”
Despite having played three more games than Penn on the young season, Seton Hall (0-3-1) struggled for much of the opening frame to engineer dangerous attacks, as Penn’s midfield consistently disrupted the Pirates’ flow of possession. Then, down 2-0 in the 34th minute, a rare counterattack by Seton Hall cut the deficit in half, when midfielder Amanda Gulli beat two Penn defenders to a cross that she was able to slide past diving senior goalkeeper Kalijah Terilli.
“Defensively, we don’t want to concede goals like that one, so obviously we need to be better there,” Van Dyke said. “But I think we got better as the game went on, and it does get harder on your defenders when you go up one or two goals early.”
The Quakers did not face another dangerous attack after that, and in the second half, Stephens provided Penn with an insurance goal. A corner kick took a deflection off a Seton Hall defender, and the rookie capitalized from close range yet again.
Stephens finished her first game with the Red and Blue with two goals and six of the team’s 15 shots.
“We’ve been practicing that exact movement where I just pop off the post on those plays in the box, and I was super excited to see it work in a game.” Stephens said. “It’s something we are going to keep working on for whoever is playing that position on the field, and I think that it will be dangerous against a lot of teams.”
While it may not have been a perfect game for the Quakers, the team and its coaching staff have plenty of reason to be optimistic as the season truly gets underway.
“It’s tough going into your first game against a team that already has played three games, but I was pleased to see us improve and solidify that first win,“ Van Dyke said. “Going forward, if we fix a few things defensively I think we should be fine.”
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