The floodgates have opened.
Six days ago, Penn men’s soccer was in dire straits. The team had failed to score a goal in five of its six matches in 2015 and found itself winless with Ivy play looming.
Consider the script flipped.
After notching a 3-0 win over Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday, the Quakers got off to a hot start in Ivy League play on Saturday night, as sophomore Joe Swenson logged a goal in each half against Cornell to lead Penn to a 2-0 victory.
The Red and Blue (2-5-1, 1-0-0 Ivy) found themselves largely on the defensive throughout the opening frame, committing eight fouls while conceding three corner kicks. However, half an hour into the match, freshman Teddie Levenfiche crossed a low ball into the box that Swenson pushed into the back of the net to give Penn the lead.
“The first one came from Teddie, and I knew he was going to play it into me,” Swenson said. “That was just me knowing where to be to get it and him putting it in a great spot.”
Swenson’s goal was the first of the season — and the first of his career as a whole. After not appearing in a match last year while at Connecticut, the transfer’s score gave the Quakers the advantage and allowed Penn to play a more offensive game from that point forward.
“[After the first goal], I think we were able to get on the ball more and we were more confident going forward,” Swenson said. “Being more offensive helped us out a lot.”
Now with the lead, the Red and Blue traded barbs with the Big Red (1-8-1, 0-0-1) as the second half began, with both sides getting off more shots than in the first period. While Cornell registered three shots in the second half, Swenson put the nail in the coffin in the 82nd minute.
Off a cross from sophomore Luka Martinovic, the Massapequa Park, N.Y., native banged home a shot to seal the match.
With assists from a freshman and a sophomore, as well as a brace from the sophomore transfer, the Quakers’ win was undoubtedly made possible by outstanding performances from a handful of young players.
“I told them this after the Penn State game: You’re not freshmen anymore,” coach Rudy Fuller said. “All of them have played significant minutes, so their experience or being freshmen isn’t an excuse. When they’re on the field, they’re expected to make an impact, and I think they’ve been doing that.”
Both Levenfiche and Fuller also attributed the Red and Blue’s success to an improved chemistry and confidence among the players.
“It was definitely a slow start [to the season], and that’s something that has characterized the games in which we’ve struggled earlier this year,” Levenfiche said. “But in the last two games, we’ve been attacking more and asking questions of the opposition’s defense, and that’s been the difference. We’ve been more confident in our play."
Now, fresh off consecutive wins in which a dormant offense has awakened and the back line has maintained clean sheets, the Quakers are finally playing like the team many thought would compete for the Ivy title this season.
“The momentum just keeps coming, and we’re getting better and better,” Swenson said.
But with a decent Columbia squad on tap for Penn’s next matchup, Fuller is quick to point out that the team still has not reached its peak performance.
“We’re still a work in progress,” he said. “I think we still can get better in a lot of areas, and we have our work cut out for us against Columbia next weekend.”
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