It was crushing.
Even if you were at Sunday’s game supporting Dartmouth, you felt the disappointment and saw the frustration on the faces of Penn men’s soccer as 88 solid minutes of play without a score ultimately gave way to a 1-0 Red and Blue defeat.
The Quakers’ back-breaker came during the 89th minute, when Big Green midfielder Matt Danilack headed a cross past Penn keeper Etan Mabourakh.
“It’s upsetting,” freshman back Gavin Barger said. “It’s a goal that we shouldn’t be giving away. We have to make sure we win in the box, especially in the last five minutes.
“It’s a disappointing way to lose a game.”
Until that moment, the scoreboard reflected an even slate for both teams. And in some ways, those goose-eggs accurately embodied what was happening on the field, with possession shifting fluidly between both sides.
“There were a lot of good momentum shifts,” Barger said. “It was two good teams going at it today.”
However, in each period, Dartmouth (7-3-1, 3-0-0 Ivy) more than doubled the number of shots on Mabourakh than the Red and Blue (2-8-1, 1-2-0) were able to aim at Big Green goalkeeper, Stefan Cleveland.
“The stats portray more of the territorial advantage,” coach Rudy Fuller said. “They played direct, and we gave them a lot of throws ... and allowed them to set up shop near our goal.”
In total, Penn took a mere 10 shots compared to the visitors’ 27.
“Collectively, we have to be better at putting pressure on the ball, because giving up 20 shots — doesn’t matter what territory you’re in, you’ve got to be better,” Fuller said.
On defense, Mabourakh and the back line were impressive, shutting down many Dartmouth attempts, and Penn finished the day with 10 saves compared to the Big Green’s one.
Mabourakh is one of the Quakers’ three keepers who have seen action between the pipes so far this season, with all equally likely to appear in game settings each week.
But on Sunday, it was only Mabourakh who had an impressive performance and was instrumental in denying the Big Green more than one point.
“He made the simple plays, and I think he came up with two really big saves,” Fuller said. “It was a good performance for him.”
Penn did a solid job initially of clearing the ball but too often allowed Dartmouth to come back with throw-ins, allowing its squad to advance further into Red and Blue territory.
“We’ve got to be better dealing with those types of services,” Fuller said. “That comes down to being aware when the ball is served about what’s around you ... and talking to the guy who’s going to the ball and making sure he has time.”
Despite Penn’s young defensive unit, the team did push the ball up the field to give its offense scoring opportunities.
The Quakers’ most dangerous attempt came in the 33rd minute when one of midfielder Joe Swenson’s three shots hit the crossbar. Junior captain Alec Neumann also had a quality opportunity in the second half but hit it just over the net.
As close as the Quakers were yesterday afternoon, though, they just couldn’t finish on top. And this game was ultimately lost in the penalty box.
“You can run the game between the 18’s, but games are won and lost in the penalty area on both sides,” Fuller said. “You’ve got to be able to keep your side clean, and you’ve got to be able to punish teams on the other side.
“I think when all was said and done, we can talk about the territory, the shots, this that and the other thing,” he continued. “But it came down to them getting a header and finishing and us not doing the same at the other end.
“It’s a simple game.”
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