After beginning its first winning streak of the season last week, the Penn men's soccer team quickly slipped back into a losing streak, dropping two consecutive 2-1 contests. The Red and Blue fell to 3-6-2 after bowing to Old Dominion on Saturday and Lehigh yesterday. The games were the last before Penn embarks on a stretch in which it faces three Ivy opponents over four games. In Saturday's game against Old Dominion, the Quakers came out strong in the first half, like they have consistently been doing as the season has progressed. Ten minutes into the game, Penn was pressuring the ODU defense. Penn goalie Mike O'Connor punted the ball deep into Monarchs territory but Quakers forward Mike McElwain missed the header from the punt. It looked as if the defender would control the ball but a miscommunication between the defense and the goalkeeper caused the ball to go into the net for the first and only Penn goal of the day. "It was a mistake on our part," ODU coach Alan Dawson said. "We had a miscommunication between our goalkeeper and our last defender. Penn was putting pressure on us, and put us under the gun a bit, so they forced us to make the mistake." Despite other scoring chances, that goal was the only one either team would net in the first frame. Six minutes after the Penn goal, ODU (10-2) tried to counter with a flurry of shots. O'Connor, however, ended the opportunity with a great sliding save. "Mike came up with some big saves and I think he played as well as he did anytime in the season," Penn coach Rudy Fuller said. "Some of the chances they had were difficult to stop." Penn also had chances in the first frame, thanks mostly to forwards McElwain and William Libby. Both players barely missed goals on passes from one another. "I thought we had a lot of scoring opportunities," Libby said. "We've built up a good relationship on the field and that should help us out in future games." In the second half, the Monarchs took control of the game. About halfway through the second frame, Michael Tooley tied the game with a blast off the right post off an assist by junior forward Tommy Barnicle. The strike was the freshman's eighth of the season. Five minutes later, Michael Tanner recorded the game winner when he carried for 20 yards before blasting a shot past O'Connor. The goal was Tanner's 14th of the season. "I've been on kind of a hot streak lately," Tanner said. "Giovanni Solorzano stripped the defender and played a great ball though. I got a good first touch on it and was able to put it in the corner." Although Penn played a more intense game from that point on, the Quakers seemed fatigued and could not get the equalizer. "Up until this point we've played teams that are all about the same level, but against ODU we had to jump to the next level," Fuller said. "This game challenged us to become better and for a good portion we were up to the challenge." Against Lehigh (6-6-2), the Quakers were up to the challenge for the entire game, but could not come away with a win. Similar to the ODU game, Penn took a 1-0 lead only to see the Engineers come back and score two. What was different about this game was that Penn had more chances than its opponent did. "Against the Monarchs, we had the better of play in the first half," Fuller said. "Against Lehigh, we controlled possession throughout the game. We just got stung twice." The Quakers once again started strong, drawing a penalty kick midway through the first frame. Reggie Brown could not convert the penalty, however, and the score remained 0-0. Despite the missed opportunity, Penn remained upbeat and scored just minutes later. Penn midfielder Austin Deng made a crisp pass to McElwain at the top of the 18-yard box. The forward controlled the ball and put it right past Lehigh goalie Jeff Correll. The Engineers reacted fast with a counter-attack goal. Lehigh midfielder Evan Bruno took the ball down the sideline and passed it to Dan Perciballi, who slid the ball right under O'Connor to even the score. The teams remained even at halftime and nothing changed until the 73:23 mark. The Quakers lined up for a corner kick. Bruno controlled a Lehigh clear and passed to Perciballi, who scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal. "Both goals were counterattack goals," O'Connor said. "We were playing aggressively on offense and they were able to get two breakaways." The persistent Quakers offense led to Correll having to make eight saves while O'Connor only had to make four. But that's obviously not the statistic that counts. Nevertheless, Fuller remains confident that if the team keeps up its high level of play, the wins will come. "If the guys continue to improve as a team, the results will be better," he said.Comments powered by Disqus
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