Penn women’s soccer has nothing to lose.
For their final conference match up of the season, the Quakers (6-5-4, 1-2-3 Ivy) find themselves in a unique position. Their opponent, the undefeated Tigers (13-3-0, 6-0-0) have already clinched the Ivy crown for 2015 and an NCAA Tournament berth with their win over Cornell last weekend.
On the Princeton sidelines, Saturday's game at Rhodes Field is little more than a formality. For Penn, it is about much more than that.
For the Quakers in the Class of 2016, it’s about moving on. For three of the five seniors on the team — Caroline Dwyer, Shannon Hennessy and Erin Mikolai — Saturday’s game is the final chapter in a four-year-long saga of wins, losses and ties while wearing the Red and Blue.
“They all are contributors, they’re all high impact players and they all play a significant amount of minutes,” said coach Nicole Van Dyke.
Unlike the rest of their class, seniors Kalijah Terilli and Paige Lombard will have another shot at glory next year.
Lombard, who transferred to Penn from Miami in 2014, spent the entirety of that season sidelined with a knee injury and did not see playing time until the dawn of the 2015 season. According to Van Dyke, the senior back is hungry for more. “For her it’s really just about building on this year and the experience she had,” said Van Dyke. “Now she’s just ramping herself up.”
Joining Lombard on the field in 2016 will be fellow senior Kalijah Terilli. After sitting out her freshman year with an injury, Terilli was sidelined with an injury again in 2015 during the team’s two-game swing through South Carolina. Returning to Penn for a fifth year gives Terilli a chance to get closure.
“She’s a massive part of the team,” said Van Dyke. “We’re building for the future, and she gets to be a part of that.”
Although Terilli will be back on Rhodes Field next fall, she will be honored with the rest of her class during the senior day festivities on Saturday. Lombard, on the other hand, will be honored next year with the current junior class.
For the other 23 members of the Quakers squad, Saturday’s game is about moving forward. As the last game of the 2015 season, no matter the result, the weekend tilt gives the team a chance to reflect on a year that is hard to quantify in few words.
Although the team’s record and likely sixth place Ivy finish may not indicate a team rife with talent, Penn outshot nearly all of its opponents and only allowed in 11 goals in 15 games. According to the outgoing Dwyer, that makes a big statement to the rest of the Ancient Eight for the seasons to come. 2015 was about learning to come together under a new system with a new coach. The way Dwyer sees it, it’s now up to the returning core to keep setting lofty goals for themselves.
“They should prepare to get the Ivy title,” Dwyer said. “I never got it while I was here ... but just to keep the faith that it will happen, because I know that it will for them.”
Van Dyke shares Dwyer’s aspirations for the team, but takes a more technical tack to the months that will follow Saturday’s result — be it a win or a loss.
“We have a tremendous amount of desire and commitment to become the best that we can be,” she said. “We need to improve our technical abilities and, obviously, in front of goal being one of those.”
Indeed, converting shots on goal to points on the scoreboard proved difficult for the team all year. The Quakers did start to put together a coherent offense late in the season, so perhaps Saturday could be the team’s most poignant performance yet.
“We can come out hopefully free of abandon and use all of the experience we’ve had this year and finish it off on a high note,” said Van Dyke.
“It’d be nothing better than to ruin Princeton’s celebration and ceremony on our field with a loss.”
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