Parity was the name of the game under the lights at Penn Park on Friday night.
On a frigid, rain-swept night, 110 minutes of play were not enough to separate Penn women’s soccer and Cornell, who battled to a 0-0 draw.
Penn (4-4-3, 0-1-1 Ivy) found itself on its back foot early, as it faced not only a ferocious head wind, but also a Big Red squad that came out of the gates fast, looking to continue their unbeaten run. Cornell (8-0-3, 1-0-1) forced the Quakers back into their own defensive third for much of the first half, as wind-enhanced long balls and crosses kept Penn’s defense backpedaling.
But while the Red and Blue were forced to give ground, the back line — anchored by seniors Paige Lombard, Shannon Hennessy and Caroline Dwyer — held strong and was able to minimize Cornell’s dangerous opportunities.
“This year, we have a lot of girls in the back who haven’t played with each other a lot, but every game we get a little more solid playing together,” Lombard said. “We are starting to really learn each other’s movements and tendencies, and our communication gets better every time we play.”
“We made a few mistakes [in a 2-0 loss to] Harvard last week defensively on set pieces and that was what cost us, but tonight I think we played very well in back,” coach Nicole Van Dyke said. “We were able to shore up those mistakes and didn’t give Cornell many sniffs at goal”.
In the second half, the Quakers at last got a chance to play with the wind at their backs, but it was Cornell that manufactured the first, as well as one of the best, opportunities of the half. Sophomore forward Paige DeLoach broke free from the Penn defense with a clear shot at goal, but was denied at point-blank range by junior goalkeeper Carrie Crook, who played a solid game between the sticks for the Red and Blue.
After that, however, it was all Quakers, with Penn taking full advantage of playing with the wind and getting off shots on goal. The Quakers' best chance of the game came off the foot of senior midfielder Erin Mikolai, when she caught the Cornell keeper flat footed midway through the second half and lofted a shot that deflected off the corner of the post.
This was the closest either team would come to breaking the deadlock, and while Penn continued to enjoy the majority of the possession and scoring chances throughout regulation and overtime, the Big Red's back line held just as firmly as Penn’s had in the first half.
“We knew we were going to have the advantage in the second half, and so we literally had to weather the storm, and we were able to come up with some chances in the second half,” Van Dyke said.
"We are just a little bit of timing, a little bit of taking risks and taking chances away from finding a way to put that ball in the net, and it’s just an area of the game we have to get better at."
In the end though, while Penn was able to grab a point against an undefeated Ivy League rival, it’s clear that many of the players and coaches feel that there were points left on the table.
“Is it a good result on paper? Yeah, but ultimately our goal is to win games,” Van Dyke said. “We had some chances to do that, but we need to be better at taking those chances.”
The Quakers will next be in action on Monday night in their penultimate non-conference match of the season, facing off with Lehigh at Rhodes Field.
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