All’s well that ends well.
Penn women’s soccer has adapted that mindset as they look to close out the 2016 season at Princeton this Saturday.
After battling back against Brown during Homecoming, the Quakers (9-3-3, 2-2-2 Ivy) managed to secure a draw and one point to stay ahead of the fifth-place Tigers (10-4-2, 2-3-1). Although there will be no postseason for Penn this year, the intensity is as high as ever.
For senior Paige Lombard, this historic rivalry is more than enough motivation for her squad.
“We always expect a battle against Princeton. It’s the last game of the season so you wanna go out with a bang,” Lombard said. They are usually one of our rivals and it’s a close game. Especially this year, with the points, it’s close.”
Princeton will certainly come in fired up, as they will playing fresh off of a 6-1 thrashing of Cornell. Regarding the game plan, Penn coach Nicole Van Dyke has no plans of deviating from the successful formula for her team on the road, as they remain undefeated while traveling.
“We just try to do the same thing. It’s out last week and we’re not trying to learn anything new,” Van Dyke said. “We just want to do the best we can at what we do well. We want to keep the ball and be a little more patient in certain opportunities. If someone shows up to training we want them to think we’re playing for the Ivy League title this weekend.”
The defense has been especially formidable this year, with the Red and Blue only allowing 0.6 goals a game while having pitched eight shutouts. Senior defender Riann Winget believes the back line has gelled, and good communication and positioning has kept the opposition off the scoreboard.
“Everyone has been working together as a unit and reading each other’s positioning and knowing where they will be. We are really synchronized and the communication is flawless right now and that’s part of defense,” Winget said.
For the senior class, they will have only 90 more minutes to cement their legacy with the program before handing the reigns over to the younger players.
Discussing her class’ impact, Winget sees the seniors as a source of motivation and unity for the newer faces on the squad.
“I think we bring a lot of high energy, optimism, and togetherness. I think we’ve really helped strengthen the family dynamic that was here before we got here and continue the part of our team that is a family and a unit,” she said. “We’re just really happy and energetic, and it brings everyone together.”
Although it will her last time stepping on the grass in a Penn uniform, Lombard points out that everyone is treating it as any other contest that demands full effort and heart for the right outcome.
“I think every game so far, all we want, as seniors and as teammates, is for everyone to give it their absolute all, and I think we’ve gotten that every game,” Lombard said. “If we go out there and give it our all and leave it on the field then we’ll be happy when we walk off.”
Van Dyke recognizes that not the results went in favor of her team this year, but had nothing but praise for all those players who have competed valiantly throughout.
“I’m so proud of this team because we can’t ever say they didn’t give a full effort. Every time they dealt with some kind of adversity, they always battled back. Going down at Dartmouth, battling back, going down to Brown, battling back,” Van Dyke said. “It’s easy to crumble, especially after dropping a game in conference, but they haven’t done that. We’ve been in every game, whether we’ve won, lost, or tied.”
In discussing giving the seniors a curtain call and getting them minutes in their final game, Van Dyke pointed out that granting those opportunities is an objective, but always secondary to leaving with three points.
“I will tell you one thing: beating Princeton at Princeton would be better than any sort of senior night for this team because it’s just that rivalry that’s always there. It’s that game on the schedule where there is a red circle around it,” she said.
“Coming out of our history with Princeton, a win would really do wonders for us,” Winget added. “Especially a shutout win, or a multi-goal win. But any win on the road, at Princeton — you can’t beat it.”
So, the best sendoff for the Penn seniors would be one final win over their arch nemesis.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.