As noted poet Rocky Balboa once said: “When you get knocked down, get back up and keep moving forward.”
Responding to failure is a vital process in sports at all levels. Penn men’s soccer — in the midst of a season defined by injuries, goal-scoring troubles and crushing final-minute losses — seems as though they are destined for something to fall their way.
That good fortune could start this Saturday as the Quakers (2-8-1, 1-2-0 Ivy) take on Yale (1-10-0, 0-3-0) at Rhodes Field with both squads looking to respond to heartbreaking losses from last weekend.
The Red and Blue are coming off their toughest defeat of the season, a 1-0 loss to Dartmouth. After a stellar defensive performance by Penn for the vast majority of the game, the Big Green converted a header off a corner to hand the Quakers a loss in the game’s final two minutes.
Yale is also looking to bounce back after a difficult loss to Cornell. After scoring with only eight seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime, the Bulldogs gave up a goal — also a header — with just over a minute left in the extra frame.
The Red and Blue insist that the key to regaining success as they zero in on the heart of their Ivy League schedule is to forget about the past and focus on what they have to do better.
“It’s a new day. It’s a new game. You take each game as it comes,” coach Rudy Fuller said.
Junior forward Alec Neumann reiterated that sentiment.
“Coming out of the day off, everyone came out pretty strong [at practice],” he said. “Once everyone collectively works together, you mentally stay turned on for the rest of the season.”
As has been the case for most of the season up to this point, Penn’s young offense — dealing with various injuries, including one to junior Matt Poplawski — has been underwhelming in the scoring category. The Quakers know this will probably be the key in how the rest of their season turns out.
The confidence in their tactics is still there, and the team feels that to get back on track, they simply need a few good bounces to go their way.
“We know the goals are going to come,” Neumann said. “Sometimes you get a bounce that goes right over you, other times it lands right on your foot. The goals will come. We are always working towards it.”
But the Quakers won’t be the only team hungry to turn things around on the pitch Saturday night.
“Yale has had a similar season that we’ve had. They’ve been close in a lot of games,” Fuller said. “They’re very hungry for some success, so I think they’re going to come here and give it everything for that Ivy win, and so will our guys.
“I would imagine it’s going to be your typical Ivy match. It’s going to be hard fought, it’s going to be tight, it’s going to be close and whoever makes the big plays is going to win it.”
With Penn and Yale coming off brutal losses coming in the final moments of their respective games, the game may come down to who gets back up the best after getting knocked down.
And with both teams getting desperate for wins, expect this game to be quite a fight.
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