If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Penn women’s soccer is thinking just that heading into the weekend coming off a three-game winning streak.
The Quakers (3-1-0) will look to continue their recent dominance when they host Towson and neighbors Drexel on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
The Red and Blue are coming in with loads of momentum, after picking up two solid wins this past weekend at Delaware and at home against Lafayette. What’s more, the team is feeling the immediate impact of some of their youngsters, with freshmen scoring three out the team’s four goals in those victories. On top of that, freshmen also put together two of the three assists that weekend.
Penn defeated both the Blue Hens and the previously undefeated Leopards by scores of 2-1, capitalizing on offense and weathering formidable attacks. All of the Quakers’ goals were scored in the first half, another sign that their firepower has been refined and they have the ability to go and grab the leads.
Perhaps the narrow margins might indicate room for improvement, as the Red and Blue were outshot by Delaware and conceded a goal on a set piece to Lafayette, but Penn coach Nicole Van Dyke is more than satisfied with her team’s efforts.
“I don’t think any coach is concerned with success. It’s hard to score goals so anytime we put the ball in the back of the net we’re happy,” she said. “We’re off to a quick start in terms of scoring early and really putting our stamp on the game.”
The Tigers (2-5-1) and the Dragons (4-4) will not be pushovers, so Van Dyke’s squad will have to maintain their level of performance. Towson is coming off a split decision at the Navy Invitational last weekend, and while their record isn’t too stellar, their 5-1 trouncing of Bowling Green proves they can cause problems. Meanwhile, Drexel was dominated by No. 23 Rutgers, 5-0, but wins against Villanova and Fairfield are impressive nonetheless.
Confidence is certainly high right now, but players know that past successes do not ensure future victories, and are ready to get back to work. Freshman Emma Loving, who notched a key goal against Delaware, noted the team’s recent optimistic mindset.
“I think that we’re really positive right now. We’re really excited about the three wins, but we know that it’s over now,” Loving said. “We’re gonna learn from those games and work on everything in practices and keep going forward. The wins are great and all, but have to keep moving towards the next match.”
In discussing the goal tally of late, sophomore Sasha Stephens, who picked up an assist against Lafayette, explained the next step to keep the streak going.
“We just need to keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve been winning and we’ve been scoring,” Stephens said. “We’ve already scored almost as many goals as last year so that you can already see we are on an excellent track. Everyone is getting up there and scoring and assisting, and just working their butts off.”
Results this weekend will be especially important for the Quakers, with the exciting Ivy League season looming. With only two more chances to shore everything up before facing the likes of Harvard and Cornell, Van Dyke is looking to get the kinks out right away.
She discussed her keys for these two tests ahead, really looking to get players to gel and find that rhythm with one another.
“We’re trying to build on ourselves every weekend that we play,” Van Dyke said. “We’re trying to improve our speed of play, and really connect the lines; our backs with the midfielders, our midfielders with the forwards, and being able to skip lines. Also building the relationships between the players, understanding each other’s tendencies like where they want the ball and what foot, and that continues to build day by day.”
With conference play on the horizon, the Red and Blue will certainly aim to keep the ball rolling. Wins this weekend would do wonders for their confidence going into the grueling stretch ahead, especially if they keep coming from the feet of the newcomers.
This begs the question: Is this just a hot streak, or are the Quakers here to stay?
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