You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take, but you can still miss a hundred percent of the shots you do take. Penn women’s soccer knows this all too well.
Last Friday, the Quakers (4-3-4, 0-1-2 Ivy) found themselves in another scoreless draw in Ivy play, this time against Columbia. The contest extended Penn’s current goal drought to five straight games, with the team’s last scorecoming almost a month ago against VCU on Sept. 18.
The team’s scoreless streak comes at a time when the Red and Blue have consistently outplayed and outshot their opponents with little to show for their efforts.
Their game against the Lions (5-5-1, 1-1-1) was no exception. The Quakers showed their dominance with the advantage in an 18-6 shot count but failed to find the back of the net once again.
Inclement weather pushed the match back two hours, but the real game-time action did not come until the second half when the game opened up and led to chances on goal. Whereas the first 45 minutes saw an exchanging of blows between the two teams — Columbia took the lead in corners while Penn had the advantage in shots — the second half did not exhibit such parity as Penn controlled play on all counts.
“We challenged them at half to take more chances, and they did that,” coach Nicole Van Dyke said of her players.
In the second half alone, the Quakers recorded 11 shots to the Lions' two. A flurry of corners tested the Columbia goalie and backline, who did well to resist the full force of the Red and Blue.
Penn freshman left back Cami Nwokedi showed the team's will to get ahead with incisive runs down the left flank. Senior captain Paige Lombard also left the comfort of her place in the center of the Quakers' back four to take up an attacking role in the middle of the park.
“Defensively, we know we are sound,” Van Dyke said. “We also gamble a little bit more now with more numbers going forward, trying to get that goal.”
Lombard's co-captain, Erin Mikolai, made her presence felt with a threatening free kick from outside the arch that forced a brilliant save out of Lions goalie Allison Spencer, who barely got a finger on the ball to push it safely over the crossbar. The best chance of the game for both sides came soon after when a Red and Blue corner resulted in three shots within in the six-yard box, two of which were blocked in front of net and the last of which was sent far above the frame.
Many of these efforts were bolstered by an assertive midfield in Ana Chevtchenko, Darby Mason and Erica Higa. Excellent composure on the ball provided a strong pivot between defense and offense, effectively trapping possession in the Red and Blue attacking third for prolonged periods of time.
All of this, however, left something to be desired from the forwards who failed to score with the team’s seven shots on goal. And yet, Van Dyke remains confident in her side, hopeful that stat sheet superiority will translate into goals in the near future.
“I can’t fault them for the effort they put in,” Van Dyke said. “They want to win, and sometimes you don’t get the ball bouncing your way. But the most important thing for us is to stay together as a team and continue to work.”
Hopefully, this work will pay off in the team’s upcoming out of conference matchup with American at home on Tuesday. The Eagles (4-7-1) are also coming off a double overtime draw, as they tied, 1-1, with Army last Saturday. Going off NCAA standings alone, this is a very winnable result for the 118th-ranked Red and Blue who sit far above American at No. 299.
Games, however, are won by goals. If Penn is going to keep the second half of the season intact and be a contender for the Ivy championship, a win at home could go a long way.
“I think it’s one of those things where when it happens, it’s going to really happen,” Van Dyke said on breaking the team’s current scoreless streak. “We’ve outshot every team we’ve played outside of Harvard and Clemson, so you would think that if it’s based on stats, we would have lost two games this year.
"The good thing is that they work so they’ll continue to come until we get that, and they’ve just got to believe in themselves.”
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