If you got to Rhodes Field 10 minutes late for Sunday’s game, then you missed a few things.
You missed freshman Emma Loving’s first two collegiate goals. You missed senior Paige Lombard’s first goal of the 2016 season. And you missed 10 minutes of soccer that looked decidedly different from the season opener, as the Penn women’s soccer team blitzed visitors Robert Morris for four first half goals on the way to a 5-0 rout.
In stark contrast to their match against Maryland a week ago, where the Red and Blue surrendered two goals in less than 12 minutes, the Quakers (1-1-0) completely controlled the opening possession figures.
In the sixth minute, sophomore Allie Trzaska played Loving into space outside the box, which the forward proceeded to take full advantage of by firing a shot into the upper corner of the net. Penn fans had barely sat back down when they were yanked out of their seats again as Lombard headed home a goal off a corner from sophomore Sasha Stephens to make the score line 2-0 in the very next minute of play.
And before Robert Morris (0-5-0) could even decide what changes to make in order to stop the hemorrhaging, Loving struck again in the ninth minute, muscling off a defender and slotting home a cross from sophomore Cami Nwokedi.
“Capitalizing on opportunities early was a huge part of our game today, and coming out strong from the beginning was something we wanted to focus on,” Loving said. “This week we worked on being not only physically ready for the first whistle but also mentally switched on and being ready for whatever they threw at us.”
While the scoring pace subsided slightly after the initial onslaught, the Red and Blue showed no sign of allowing their focus to slip. They continued to test Colonials keeper Makenzi Shearson — and the Robert Morris back line — and were once again rewarded for their persistence in the 23rd minute. Taking advantage of a broken play inside the penalty box, freshman Emily Sands added her name to the score sheet with a strong finish over a diving Shearson. All in all, Penn totaled 10 shots and four corner kicks in the first 45 minutes of play.
“Before the game the team, not just the coaching staff, talked about what they wanted to focus on, and what we discussed was starting early and starting sharp,” second-year coach Nicole Van Dyke said.
“There was a real sense that when we got in for half time that we had accomplished that and we were able to reassess and decide where to go from here, and what we wanted to do was keep pushing.”
The second half produced few surprises, as Penn continued to pound against the Colonial’s defense and easily broke up the few attacking forays Robert Morris was able to launch. Though Penn amassed another 11 shots on goal in the second half, their sole breakthrough came in the 53rd minute. Junior Erica Higa easily buried a cross from Stephens to make the score 5-0, capping off a stellar offensive day for the Quakers.
“I think today wasn’t about who we were playing, but about us building our own identity as a team,” Van Dyke said. “I can see how well we are learning and growing within training and the improvements we can make from game to game, and that will be the key for us the rest of the year.”
Penn will continue its non-conference home stand next Friday when Lafayette comes to town, and will hope to build upon its offensive momentum with less than three weeks remaining until the first Ivy game of the season.
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