It’s do or die for women’s soccer. And do they will.
With three games to go in Ivy League play, the Red and Blue (5-3-5, 0-1-3 Ivy) find themselves in fifth, but in clear striking distance of third place. A win against Yale — who sits just below Penn in the standings — would go a long way to ensuring the team ends up in the top half.
“It’s really important,” coach Nicole Van Dyke said of the match against Yale (4-7-2, 1-3-0). “Are we going to win an Ivy League championship right now? Probably not. But it’s important for us to be the best of the rest. We want to finish the highest we can.”
Finishing best of the rest is a realistic goal for the Red and Blue squad at the moment. While the results thus far in conference play may not have been ideal, they fail to tell the full story of the season.
“We have improved tremendously from last season,” Van Dyke said. “This team craved an identity. This season, we’ve outshot opponents, and we’ve been on top of teams. We’re one of the top teams in this conference, hands down, no question.
“Now it’s a question of what’s going to set us apart from everyone else.”
This new-look Penn squad has seen multiple transformations on various scales throughout 2015. There are new personnel and a new style of play; some players have even seen their positions change.
Junior Olivia Blaber began the season on defense, but she was switched to midfield early on and recently found herself leading the team’s attack. Despite this unfamiliar territory, she has persevered to achieve success. In the Quakers’ most recent game against Dartmouth, she scored a wonder strike from 30 yards out, her first goal of the season.
“I’m always excited to get on the field,” Blaber said. “It’s just a privilege to play.”
The Haddonfield, N.J., native will likely continue to lead the attack this Saturday against the Bulldogs, as well as in the final two matches of the season.
“We’re just looking to do our best in these last three games,” Blaber added. “If we can go 3-0, that’s great, and if we can not let in any goals, that’s great. But for now we’re going after Yale and going for the win.”
If Blaber fails to find her groove on Saturday, the team will likely look to freshman Sasha Stephens for a scoring boost. Stephens, who was recently named the co-Ivy League Rookie of the Week for the second time this year, feels optimistic about her squad’s chances against the Bulldogs.
“We’re looking to carry out the same things we did against American,” Stephens said, citing the 5-0 Penn victory last Tuesday in which she scored twice and provided one assist. “We’re going to show them we’re the best team on the field when it comes down to it.”
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