The golden rule of referee school -- if there is such a thing -- is probably that a referee should never decide the outcome of a game. If you ask the members of the Penn men's soccer team, they would probably tell you Saturday's refs never learned that rule. On Senior Day, the Quakers dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to Princeton in front of a big Homecoming crowd. The two teams played scoreless soccer until the final minute of play, when a questionable foul close to the penalty box led to a Princeton penalty shot and goal. "I thought it was one of our better games overall, and I feel a little bit ripped off," Penn coach Rudy Fuller said. "But, you have to give credit to the referee for having the guts to call a penalty in that spot if he thought there was one." Last-place Penn battled the first-place Tigers hard for the entire game, with each team's offensive statistics nearly even. The Quakers had five shots while Princeton took 10. Also, Penn took four corner kicks while Princeton had six. Both offenses were also even in the fact that they both struggled mightily to make plays throughout the game. "It wasn't a good day for our attack," Princeton coach Jim Barlow said. "Our guys had a hard time putting plays together -- passing isn't easy on this field and we knew that coming in." Penn also had opportunities but could not convert. Twice in the first half, senior David Bonder took shots from 20 yards out. Princeton goalie Jason White was then forced to to make two tough saves. Both teams also played similar games in that both gave credit to its defense for carrying the team. "I thought Griff Behncke, Graeme Rein and Chad Adams all played great games," Barlow said. "Every time Penn advanced the ball, those guys picked them off and plugged holes." Fuller gave credit to the entire team for its defensive performance. "The defense was fantastic," he said. "Not just the backfield, but the team defense overall. From [goalie] Mike [O'Connor] to the midfield, the defense was right where we wanted it to be." At the end of the game, the only place the teams were not even was in the final score. With just over a minute left, Princeton sophomore Mike Nugent took a free ball from midfield, dribbled it over and made a nice through pass to Behncke beating a couple of Penn defenders. Behncke then took the ball and passed it to Matt Striebel right at the corner of the penalty box. O'Connor came out aggressively for the ball and tackled Striebel, knocking the ball out of bounds with exactly one minute left. It was at this point that the controversy began. Referee Tom Schmidt blew his whistle, calling a foul on O'Connor and pointed to the penalty box, indicating that the foul had occurred inside the box. "I came after the referee thinking and thought he was going to change the call because he was talking to the linesman but he was already pointing to the spot inside the box," Penn co-captain Reggie Brown said. "You don't want to whine or cry about it but if you give them a penalty shot, you might as well spot them a goal from the start." Behncke took the penalty and shot it into the right lower corner past a diving O'Connor, making the score 1-0. "It was obviously out of the box," O'Connor said of the foul. "I came out and I definitely fouled him, but it was at least five feet out. You just don't make that call with a minute left, especially anywhere near the line." "I've never seen anything like this," he said. "It sucks that the referee gets to decide the game." Barlow also questioned if the foul was in the box. "I thought it was a courageous call by the referee," he said. "We're fortunate that he called it and that's all you can really say about it." Despite the distressing ending, the Quakers can take something positive away from this game. They fought down to the wire with a Princeton team that has only lost one game in the Ivy League and had their best defensive performance of the season. "We definitely feel confident going into the last week of the season," Brown said. "We're going to come out hard and fight for the next two games like we've been doing all year."Comments powered by Disqus
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