It’s easy to get lost on the way to Hanover, but, after the painful circumstances of their last contest, Penn men’s soccer will be laser-focused on returning to the right path.
Dartmouth, the Ivy League champion last season, awaits the Quakers’ arrival on Saturday for their first matchup since they defeated Penn 1-0 in Philadelphia in 2015.
Their game last year, like the Red and Blue’s most recent outing, ended with a Penn loss in the final stages of the match. Then-sophomore Matt Danilack headed the ball into the top right corner to seal victory with just two minutes remaining in regulation.
Penn (3-2-5, 1-1 Ivy) will try to avenge that loss and simultaneously exorcize its demons after their stunning double-overtime defeat to Columbia over the weekend. The Lions emerged victorious with just 14 seconds left on the clock, as Penn sophomore goalkeeper Etan Mabourakh was penalized for attempting a diving save that tripped up Columbia midfielder Danny Laranetto. The play resulted in a penalty kick which freshman John Denis calmly converted as Mabourakh dove the wrong way.
Given their play throughout the match, the Quakers would have been happy to escape with their sixth draw of the season. They were thoroughly outplayed by Columbia’s forwards and the revamped Red and Blue offense could only muster two shots on goal against the Lions’ six.
Stagnation in the opponent’s half has not, however, been the norm for Penn this season. They possess the highest shot per game total in the Ancient Eight at 14 and they have, along with Brown, taken 59 corners, good for second most in the conference.
On an individual level, senior captain Alec Neumann leads the conference in goals with seven despite missing a game due to an accumulation of yellow cards.
Restoring their high-octane ways will prove to be challenging against the vaunted Dartmouth defense. The Big Green (3-2-5, 1-0-1) have relied heavily on their back line the past two years.
Last season, led by the stellar play of Ivy League Defensive Player and first team All-Ivy goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland, Dartmouth recorded a stellar 0.66 goals against average and rode their lockdown defense to a league championship.
Despite Cleveland’s graduation, junior Wyatt Omsberg has picked up where he left off after earning First Team All-Ivy honors as a sophomore defender. The team has allowed a conference-low nine goals so far and sports an Ivy-leading average of 0.81 goals allowed.
Where the Big Green’s problems lie and where Penn can take advantage is on the other side of the field.
Dartmouth has fielded the Ivy League’s most inept offense, with the team mustering a dismal shots-on-target percentage of .085 and 11 goals, a number higher only than the total of perennial doormat Yale, who have also played in two fewer games this season.
Their main offensive weapons are sophomores Noah Paravinci and Justin Donawa who, despite receiving little playing time last season, have been thrust into starting roles.
Red and Blue junior Sam Wancowicz, the leader of Penn’s defense, will focus on ramping up the activity against Dartmouth’s inexperienced forwards.
“Upping the intensity level and staying on top of the opponent’s passes [is the key against Dartmouth],” Wancowicz commented. “We’re really looking to get at them in transition. If we can get some turnovers and attack them quickly, we can catch them on the counterattack.”
Even though they will be in the middle of nowhere, the Quakers will know where to go when their cleats touch the field.
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