Despite what was described by coach Rudy Fuller as “arguably the team’s best performance of the season,” Penn men’s soccer lost 1-0 to West Virginia on Tuesday night at Rhodes Field.
The Quakers (4-5-5) came into this game riding high after a decisive 3-0 victory over Yale. But a look back past that game at the tough 4-0 and 4-1 losses to Villanova and Darthmouth gave reason to be concerned with how the back line would hold up, especially considering that the Mountaineers (8-5-1) had defeated #22 Akron 3-1 this past Saturday.
In preparing for the contest, Fuller said that the attention was not on the upcoming opponent, but rather his own team focused on “trying to get better at what we do.” While the result was not the desired one, this strategy certainly paid dividends.
For much of the first half, the game was a midfield battle, with momentum shifting back and forth very consistently. The first real chance came in the 24th minute, where junior midfielder Joe Swenson forced a good save from Mountaineers keeper Jose Santos. West Virginia’s first opportunity occurred in the 40th minute, with a headed cross going just wide right of the goal. At the end of the first half, the Quakers led in terms of shots, with a count of five to three, but only two of those five had forced saves from the goalie.
The Quakers led the possession battle in the first half and kept that up in the beginning of the second half, but West Virginia was able to notch a goal against the run of play in the 52nd minute. Felix Angerer was the goalscorer, and Steven James provided the assist. This ended up being the only shot for the Mountaineers in the second half.
The concession did not deter the Quakers though, as the offense continued to attack. By the 64th minute, the Quakers had created a number of chances on goal, chief among them being a header from senior forward Alec Neumann in the 67th minute that went just wide.
By the time the final whistle blew, the Quakers had put ten shots on goal, compared to a measly four for West Virginia. Unfortunately for the Quakers, while they put up a big number in this category, the Red and Blue were only capable of forcing three saves out of the West Virginia keeper.
“Sometimes it doesn’t go in the back of the net, and other days every shot seems to go in,” Neumann, the team’s captain and leading scorer, said. “It was just one of those nights.”
Fuller was, overall, very pleased by what he saw from his squad:
“The team has every right to be angry and disappointed about the final result, but not about the performance.”
Where the Quakers really shined was in the midfield, garnering praise from both Neumann and Fuller. The midfielders were instrumental in chance creation and were able to restrict the Mountaineers to much more of a counter-attack oriented approach.
The Quakers take on Brown this coming Saturday, and the frustrating outcome of this game will make them extremely “hungry,” as the coach put it.
“If we can build on this performance and be better than we were tonight and also tuck away some chances, we can play with anybody,” Fuller said.
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