Soccer nabs NCAA bid
Despite Saturday’s loss to Harvard, Quakers receive at-large slot and will face Bucknell on home turf
November 16, 2010, 4:28 am · Updated November 16, 2010, 12:00 am·
Tension hung in the air like a thick fog as the men’s soccer team awaited its bid to the NCAA tournament.
The team that was ranked No. 18 in the country just last week looked on as three Ivy foes received slots in the tournament. But with just four spots remaining, Penn had not yet flashed up on the TV screen.
Finally, a loud cheer drowned out the voice of the announcer, as the players learned that they will host Bucknell at Rhodes Field Thursday at 7 p.m.
Besides the relief at receiving a bid, the Quakers (12-5-0, 5-2-0 Ivy) were excited to have their first game of the tournament at home.
“We’re ecstatic. Number one, to get in, and we’re very thankful that the committee saw fit to give us a home game,” coach Rudy Fuller said.
Penn’s opponent, Patriot League champion Bucknell (10-8-2), has developed a reputation for strong scoring distribution. The Bison are coming off a big 2-0 win over American to seal their automatic bid.
“Bucknell is a worthy opponent,” Fuller said. “It’s a group that’s accustomed to winning.”
Penn’s last trip to the tournament came in 2008, when the Quakers fell 1-0 to George Mason in the first round.
Fuller sees commonalities between this season’s team and the 2008 squad that won the Ivy championship — but hopes the Quakers will fare better this time around.
“There’s tremendous senior leadership. There’s balance throughout the team,” he said. “I think, overall, it’s a very similar group to what we had in 2008.”
For the Quakers’ seniors, the NCAA tournament is a chance to extend their collegiate careers.
Both goalkeeper Ben Berg and midfielder Loukas Tasigianis were also grateful for the opportunity to begin their tournament campaign in front of a home-field crowd.
“First and foremost, congratulations to the guys, to the whole Penn soccer program, to the fans who have come to every game,” Tasigianis said.
“This has been not just the players but everyone that supports Penn soccer,” he said.
Berg also praised the team’s younger members.
“Even if they’re not seeing a lot of minutes in the game, they’re still coming to practice every day with the intent to get better, to work hard, make us better,” he said.
“And it’s really paid off throughout the year.”
If the Quakers beat Bucknell, they will face No. 2 seed Maryland, on Sunday in College Park.