A week in to the year, it’s time to say definitively who is good and who is not. What has impressed you most so far from Penn Athletics?
Senior Sports Editor Nick Buchta:
Everyone had the same question about Penn men’s soccer heading into the season: Could they score?
Apparently, they can.
To be sure, the draw against Seton Hall was especially rough after playing a man up nearly the entire match — but after scoring only 12 goals in all of 2015, the Quakers have managed three through just two contests.
Coach Rudy Fuller said that his staff made improving the offense his almost-singular focus this offseason. Clearly, they succeeded. Dami Omitaomu has shown explosive speed in his first two matches and Arty Kouzine found the net for his first career goal against Seton Hall. Couple that with Sam Wancowicz anchoring the back line for the Red and Blue and Matt Poplawski’s experienced hand (foot?) marshaling the midfield, and I think the Quakers are going to be in a good position once Ivy play rolls around.
At the same time, as experienced as this team feels — and they are — they’re also still incredibly young. Fuller knows this, however, and this weekend offers a real opportunity for growth. Not only will there be a lot of young guys flying halfway across the country for a weekend of matches — they’ll deal with a top-ten team in the country in Creighton.
So I’d say I’ve been most impressed with men’s soccer to this point. There was a sense Fuller would get this team back into form, but it’s surprising to find the team where they’re at right now. More work needs to be done for sure, but I’m a lot more optimistic than I thought I’d be at this point in the year.
Associate Sports Editor Jacob Snyder:
The most exciting aspect of Penn Athletics so far this season has definitely been the way field hockey has played in its first couple of outings.
With star attacker Elizabeth Hitti having graduated and more than half of this year’s team made up of underclassmen, the Quakers could easily have labeled this season a “rebuilding” one and lowered expectations. But the Red and Blue are better than that, and so far this season, they have been much, much better than that. Coming off last season’s heartbreaking loss to Princeton, the Quakers are playing with a chip on their shoulder.
In the season opener, onlookers were treated to a clinic on how to dominate a game both offensively and defensively. In all honesty, the 2-0 scoreline was easy on Lehigh; the Red and Blue more than tripled the Mountain Hawks in shots and shots on goal. The match against No. 1 ranked UNC that followed was always going to be a tall order, but you really have to be impressed with the poise the Quakers displayed for most of the night. If you remove the five-minute period where UNC scored three quick goals, the 6-2 final score becomes a lot less lopsided.
There’s a belief among the women that this could be the year, and it’s showing on the field.
Associate Sports Editor Jonathan Pollack:
For me, the most impressive development in Penn Athletics has been the goal-scoring prowess of the women’s soccer team through its first two games.
The biggest knock on the Penn team last year was that the Red and Blue couldn’t score in high volume. The Quakers averaged just over a goal a game in 16 contests, but only managed to notch three in the seven conference matchups. In the offseason, coach Nicole Van Dyke made some adjustments to the team’s offensive scheme by taking more risks with the outside backs.
Already, the new system has shown some positive results. In just two games the Quakers have scored six goals, including five in a drubbing of Robert Morris last Saturday. Several defensemen have gotten involved on the score sheet, and the team has stayed true to the system, pushing their backs up the field to create more chances.
If they keep this up, they have a good chance to make some noise in Ivy play.
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