msoccer

Nick Savino will start in goal for the Quakers on Tuesday.

Photo: Alex Fisher

For Penn men’s soccer, 2015 has been a tale of two seasons.

After slowly coming out of the gate, the Quakers (2-6-1) strung together a nice three-game sequence before losing to Columbia on Saturday. They are now looking to rebuild their momentum in Tuesday’s contest against Rutgers.

After enduring a grueling schedule in which they took on three ranked opponents in seven games, the Quakers have turned the page and played at a high level over the last two weeks. Even though the Red and Blue did lose a tough one to Columbia in that span, the vast improvement over that stretch is significant cause for hope in and of itself.

Offensively, the team went through that slow opening stretch with only one goal scored. Since then, goals have come much easier for a team that is usually known for its potent attack.

Senior midfielder James Rushton feels that the team’s strong play of late is a sign of things to come.

“I think we’re finally coming together as a team, getting on the same page,” he said. “We have confidence now. We’re going forward, creating chances, getting shots.”

They now head into an important match against Rutgers (6-2-1), their last non-conference opponent for three weeks. For the Quakers, Tuesday is one of the last chances to right their early season wrongs before Ivy season continues on Saturday.

For the Scarlet Knights, Tuesday’s matchup is a chance to pick up another win heading into their next Big Ten conference game against Northwestern. Rutgers’ season — much like Penn’s — has been marked by hot and cold streaks, but lately the team’s play has been torrid. The Scarlet Knights have outscored their opponents, 14-4, in the past two weeks and feature one of the nation’s most talented forwards in Jason Wright.

Prepping for Rutgers has mostly been a time of self-improvement for the Red and Blue. Coach Rudy Fuller finds that his young team’s growth is far more important than game-planning for certain players on the opposition.

“The focus in practice to this point of the season has always been on us,” Fuller said. “We haven’t spent much time on our opponents and what they do because we are still a team under development.”

In goal for Penn will be senior Nick Savino. After backing up former starter Max Polkinhorne for the previous two seasons, Savino has shined in his starts in place of his injured teammate in 2015. Although Polkinhorne is back and ready to play, Fuller decided to go with the hot-hand approach, meaning that Tuesday’s contest will belong to the well-seasoned Savino.

Above all, the matchup against Rutgers is an important chance for the Red and Blue to regain their lost momentum before push truly does come to shove.

“Losing against Columbia was pretty disappointing,” Rushton said. “So this game against Rutgers gives us a good chance to get back on track before we go up against Dartmouth on Sunday in a must-win situation.”

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