On a brisk Monday night at Rhodes Field, the Quakers played nearly flawless soccer. From a statistical standpoint, Penn dominated the box score in every column except the one that mattered most: the final score.
Despite outshooting their opponents 16-5, the Red and Blue (4-3-3, 0-1-1 Ivy) lost for the second time in their last three outings to Lehigh, 1-0.
After a slower first period that saw a score from the Mountain Hawks (5-4-3) in the 35th minute, Penn could not be stopped. According to coach Nicole Van Dyke, “We came out in the second half and there was only one team here.”
Senior midfielder Erin Mikolai echoed the sentiments of her coach.
“We were dominating them and got so many more shots, and the play was in their half. But we just weren’t clinical,” she said.
The team and coaching staff were notably frustrated as shot after shot failed to cross the goal line despite their exceptional play.
“We did everything right tonight except for score a goal,” Van Dyke noted. “This was one of our best performances all year.”
Undoubtedly the Quakers could have used a positive midweek result heading into their third Ivy League contest. After starting the season by winning four of five games, they have failed to record a victory in their last five attempts. Unfortunately tonight, when given the opportunity to reverse the trend, they were unable to put the finishing touches on any scoring opportunities.
Van Dyke attempted to shuffle around the lineup to create chances. And for the most part her substitutions were successful. Senior defender Caroline Dwyer shifted to forward and junior Olivia Blaber was moved from midfield to target forward where she unleashed three shots, two on target.
Despite the final score, neither the players nor the coaches were hanging their heads. If anything, the loss seemed to only leave them hungry and anxious for another shot at scoring the goal that eluded them all night.
“From a holistic standpoint it was a good performance,” Van Dyke said. “However, it’s a cruel game at times. We have to remind ourselves of how good we were tonight and not focus so much on the result. But in the end results matter unfortunately.”
Fortunately for Penn, the loss didn’t come in Ivy play. Thus the performance can shine a little brighter behind the result, especially if the Quakers build upon it during their upcoming league slate.
As Columbia looms on Friday, Mikolai is confident that her team is capable of making necessary adjustments.
“It’s actually a good feeling to know that you were doing everything right, and that was just one aspect that we can easily correct,” she added.
In the upcoming contest with the Lions (5-5, 1-1), Mikolai is confident about what her team must to in comparison to Monday night’s loss in order to record the win.
“We need to pressure every single ball. In the first half, we came off really slow. In the second half, we came out fired up,” she observed. “They didn’t have any time on the ball, and you could see we were obviously creating a lot of chances, so we just have to do that and put them under the gun and just kick their butts.”
Van Dyke also explained that the team is still settling into their identity.
“On the attack we’re young,” she stated. “So with that you just have to continue to gain experience and gain minutes.
“For the future of the program everything is still new. A lot of new faces.”
Van Dyke’s face is of course one of those new faces. But in the six months since her hire, she has seamlessly settled into her new role and has ignited this young Red and Blue squad.
As the players stretched and drank recovery drinks after the game they didn’t look like a team that had just been defeated. No, they looked like a team on a mission, one that isn’t even close to over.
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