Penn soccer preps for 'Separation Saturday'
Locked in a four-way tie, Penn takes on Dartmouth in 'do-or-die' match as title race heats up
October 14, 2011, 12:32 am · Updated October 14, 2011, 12:42 am·
Christina Wu | DP
After yellow cards forced him out of Tuesday’s draw with Lehigh, senior defender Jake Levin wasn’t shy in his assessment of Saturday’s showdown with Dartmouth — it’s “Separation Saturday,” he said.
“It’s do-or-die time, they know it and we know it,” he explained.
Heading into the match, Penn men’s soccer (6-4-2, 1-1 Ivy) finds itself locked in a tie for third in the Ivy League with the Big Green (4-4-2, 1-1) and two other squads. Cornell — who beat the Quakers, 1-0, in both teams’ Ivy League opener — currently tops the table at 2-0, along with Yale.
Last year, the Red and Blue were 5-2 in-conference, good enough to grab an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament but not enough to secure the Ivy title, as Princeton went undefeated.
The team that finished just one game behind Penn? Dartmouth. The Quakers’ grueling 1-0 victory in Hanover, N.H., last year earned Penn a first-round match at Rhodes Field while the Big Green traveled to New Jersey for their NCAA tournament opener.
“It was a back-and-forth game with [numerous] chances. Historically, these games are decided by one goal,” coach Rudy Fuller said.
“They beat us two years ago — we weren’t happy about that,” Levin added. “It just seems like with Dartmouth, it’s always such a close game and they’re such good competitors. We have a ton of respect for them.”
With both teams already down a game in the league standings, a second loss with five games remaining would likely knock them out of contention for the title and put them behind the eight ball for an NCAA tournament berth.
“It’s our season. We set our mind on winning the Ivy League at the beginning of the season, and if we want to follow through on that, we have to win Saturday’s game,” Levin said.
Despite its importance on paper, the Quakers aren’t taking any special approaches in preparation for the match.
“It’s [just] been a great week of training. We’ve been getting better every day. The focus has been on getting as good as possible [to] be at full confidence,” Levin said.
Fuller put it more simply.
“It’s the next game,” he said. “We don’t need any more importance [to play well].”
The Red and Blue enter the game fresh off three-straight road games where they finished a somewhat disappointing 1-1-1.
Despite coming away with only one win, Fuller said, “I thought we played well against both Penn State and Lehigh”
The schedule works in the Quakers’ favor, as three of their next four games are at the friendly confines of Rhodes Field, including Saturday’s high-stakes tilt with the Big Green.
“It’s our house, and we’re trying to make sure Dartmouth knows it,” Levin said.
Levin didn’t have a prediction for the match, but he did add:
“It’s gonna be a wild one on Saturday.”