Penn women’s soccer dropped its Ivy League opener against Harvard on Saturday, as a controversial foul call in the 29th minute proved to be the difference in the Quakers’ 1-0 loss.
This win now makes it four in a row for Harvard as they improved to 6-3-0 overall (1-0 Ivy), while Penn fell to 4-2-1 (0-1), snapping its five-game unbeaten streak.
“Our motto this entire season has been we can only control what we can control,” Penn coach Nicole Van Dyke said after the game. “We controlled how we responded and we controlled how we prepared for this game, and I felt that there were moments in the second half where we dictated the tempo.”
The Red and Blue did outshoot the Crimson, 9-3, in the second half but were unable to convert, as the match marked their second consecutive game without reaching the back of the net. Penn’s best chance to score came 10 minutes into the second half, when sophomore Sasha Stephens sent a shot at the top of the box that Harvard goalkeeper Lizzie Durack pushed over the crossbar, one of three saves for her on the day.
Saturday’s loss was just the second time Penn has lost at home in Ivy League play in its last 20 games, dating back to the 2010 season. Both losses came at the hands of Harvard, as the Crimson edged the Quakers 3-0 back in 2014.
The visitors took the lead in the 29th minute when senior forward Margaret Purce slotted home a controversial penalty.
That penalty kick also marked the first time Penn has trailed in its last six matches, as the Quakers were 4-0-1 in their previous five games heading in.
“It is definitely nice to play with a lead, as we have been for a lot of this season,” freshman goalkeeper Kitty Qu said. “But, as coach always tells us, we can only control certain parts of the game, and as a goalie, you have to keep that in mind and have a short memory.”
Heading into the match against the Crimson, Qu, who has played the majority of this young season in the net, sported a 0.49 goals-against average, which ranks 24th nationally in that category.
“Kitty is great, she is calm, and she has shown everyone that she can come and make big saves,” Van Dyke said. “A keeper doesn’t have to make saves all game, they have to make those one or two special ones, and she has shown that she can do that, even if today didn’t go our way.”
Qu, along with some of her teammates, was unhappy with the foul call that proved to be the turning point in the game.
“I think it was an unfair call, and I think a lot of my teammates feel the same way,” said the goalkeeper. “But, [Purce] did her job, and I didn’t do mine.”
Freshmen have played a significant role in the Quakers' early success this season, as Penn has had the last two Ivy League Rookies of the Week — midfielder Emily Sands won it on Sept. 12, followed by Qu this past Monday.
“Being a freshman, it is definitely a big adjustment to the collegiate level,” Qu said. “It’s a faster pace and more physical than high school. But it has been a learning experience and there is definitely a lot more to learn.”
Coming off a year with offensive struggles, scoring only 19 goals in the 2015 campaign, the Quakers already have 12 goals just seven games into the 2016 season. But, in their past two games, the Red and Blue have had trouble turning their shots into goals.
“[The Crimson] are supposed to be one of the best teams in the conference, so today we showed that we are also one of the best teams in the conference,” Van Dyke said. “We just have to keep doing what we are doing, working hard and playing our game, and the goals and the wins will come.”
The Quakers look to get back on track this Friday, as they continue Ivy League play on the road against Cornell.
“I’m not too worried about not scoring today, it was a big game,” Van Dyke said. “They had one or two good looks and so did we, that’s soccer.”
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