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Photo: Chase Sutton , William Snow, Zach Sheldon

Around Penn Athletics, there have been many noteworthy team performances to start out the fall. Some teams have positioned themselves as contenders for an Ivy League title, while others have shown they are just pretenders. With so many contenders, our staff faces off to debate: Which team has the best chance to finish the fall as an Ivy League Champion? 

Carter Thompson, Associate Sports Editor:

Don’t sleep on Penn cross country. 

We didn’t really know what to expect from this squad after it lost its top three runners from the Heptagonal Championship team last year. Replacing Nick Tuck, Chris Hatler and Brendan Shearn was going to be quite the task — but the Red and Blue look more than up to the challenge of being back-to-back Ivy League Champs.

Kevin Monogue, Chris Luciano, and Patrick Hally have paced this team to two victories and a fourth place finish in a strong field at the Paul Short Invitational. 

Behind them is solid depth. Regardless of the final two runners that count for the Red and Blue — any combination of William Daly, Colin Daly, Aaron Groff, Ryan Renken, Ross Wilson, and Sam Webb — this is a formidable squad. 

That depth has elevated the Quakers to No. 2 in the Mid-Atlantic Region, matching a program-best. If you think that’s good, it is. 

The Red and Blue will still have to get past Columbia, Princeton, and Brown at Heps, but this team is in a great position to go back-to-back.  

Brevin Fleischer, Sports Editor: 

Trivia question. What do Penn football’s last two Ivy Championship teams have in common? 

If you answered that both the 2015 and 2016 squads finished the Ivy slate with 6-1 records, then you’d be correct, and more importantly, you’d be emphasizing my point that Penn’s chances to win a third consecutive Ivy title remain high. 

In fact, the 2015 championship team also lost to Dartmouth in its Ivy opener before running the table to finish as Ivy co-champions. Who’s to say that this year’s squad, led by the conference's best offensive player in Justin Watson and its leading tackler in Nick Miller, can’t replicate that success? 

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times. It is highly unlikely that the eventual Ivy League Champion will finish its season with an unblemished record.  

Four of the past five champions have concluded their respective seasons with a loss, and with the increased parity that’s been on display early in this 2017 season, that pattern is unlikely to change this year.

Jonathan Pollack, Sports Editor:  

In recent weeks, one team has surprised me with their recent play: women's soccer . With a tough non-conference schedule out of the way, the squad has already made tremendous strides in the Ivy League, and is in position to make a run at the title. 

The biggest sign for the Quakers (2-5-3, 1-0-1 Ivy) came when they downed Ivy champion Harvard 1-0 and handed the Crimson their first Ancient Eight loss in two season. The win was an all-around team effort, with sophomore forward Emma Loving providing the scoring and sophomore goalkeeper Kitty Qu leading the way for the Red and Blue.

Penn followed that up with a hard-fought draw against Cornell, where Qu posted her fourth clean sheet of the season. Goals have been few and far in between for the Quakers, but a lot of that is due to their youth; a majority of the team's consistent starters are underclassmen, and early on they were settling in to their new roles.

The Quakers have momentum right now, and if a few bounces fall their way over the next few weeks, they could have a legitimate shot at their first Ivy title since 2010. 

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