They say lightning never strikes twice, but Penn women’s soccer is looking to change that this time around.
Coming off a stunning victory at defending Ivy League Champions Harvard this past weekend, the Quakers (2-5-2, 1-0 Ivy) are taking aim at visiting Cornell at Rhodes Field this Friday.
The feat of taking down the Crimson (6-4, 0-1) was huge for the Quakers. The match was Penn’s first win against Harvard since 2012, and first win at Harvard since 2007. Most importantly, it marked Penn's first Ivy League opener win under coach Nicole Van Dyke.
Van Dyke, who is now in her third season with the squad, emphasized the ripple effects of Saturday’s upset win on the Red and Blue’s trajectory towards a coveted title.
“In general, we’re just still in the driver’s seat. I think that’s the battle of the Ivy League is that there are only 7 games. It’s obvious when you drop your first game you have to rely on other people and results going your way,” Van Dyke said. “We’re excited that we can just focus on us and our preparation going into our second game.”
This season, like many others past, the next opponent will be the Big Red (2-4-1, 0-1). Historically, this has been a fairly even battle, with each team picking up a win, a loss and a draw in their past three meetings. This year, Cornell asserted itself in the Ivy preseason by picking up notable wins over Buffalo and Main, but fell 2-0 to a strong Columbia side in its first conference meeting this past Friday.
In discussing the game plan for Friday’s bout, Van Dyke reinforced the need to stay composed despite her squad’s boosted confidence.
“We don’t take any game lightly. Last year we went there and we beat them 5-0 because we were bitter about the Harvard game. This year who knows what mentality they will bring to our game,” she said. “We have to treat every game as a separate entity, because at any point, anyone can beat anyone in this league.”
For the Quakers, the talking points heading into the grueling conference play run ahead continue to be of scoreboard nature. Namely, can Penn manage to find the back of the net more consistently, and continue to keep opponents at bay?
As to the former, only notching four tallies in nine outing is disconcerting. However, in the past, they have displayed the capability to find ways to win despite minimal goal production. This is attributed to phenomenal defensive efforts, the unwavering structure of the back line, and, of course, the woman between the pipes.
Now in her sophomore year, Kitty Qu always seems to be up to the challenge. In the victory over Harvard, Qu managed to keep out seven shots and aid in thwarting ten opposing corners en route to her third shutout of the season. If the Quakers are to make a run at the postseason, then Qu will have an important role to play.
When it comes to scoring, Penn may also have to turn to its youth. Coming off her first Ivy League Co-Player of the Week commendation, sophomore Emma Loving may be truly coming into form. Having already recorded 6 shots in only 372 minutes, including the winning goal over Harvard, Loving is off a fast start to follow up on a breakout freshman season. Van Dyke noted that we may have not even seen Loving at her best yet, citing injury issues from last year, so keep an eye out for her to take over future games.
The Big Red will certainly look to test their hosts' resilience on Friday, and it will be up to the Quakers to prove that their dominant play is no flash in the pan, but rather a new paradigm.
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