Soccer is known around the world as "the beautiful game." Such description, however, is not entirely accurate when it comes to the Penn men's program over the past 13 unlucky years. Since longtime Penn baseball coach Bob Seddon's term of coaching both baseball and soccer ended in 1986, the Quakers have sputtered to an abysmal 65-120-17 mark. In that time, Penn has had precisely one member of the All-Ivy first team -- Mike Constantino in 1988. Now in his third year as head coach, still searching for his first Ivy League win with the Quakers, Rudy Fuller is determined to change all that once and for all. "I feel really good about our team," Fuller said. "Our team coming into this year is very confident. It's the most talented team that Penn has had in my time here, and I think it's the most talented team Penn has had in quite some time." That it is. The Quakers have imported All-Patriot League forward Sam Chamovitz from Bucknell, an 11-goal scorer a year ago, while other tried-and-true members of the Red and Blue now appear ready to perform at the level of the Ivy League's elite, like fellow forward Mike McElwain, who had a breakthrough season last year as a junior, leading the Quakers with six goals and assisting on three more. In fact, the problem for the Quakers last season wasn't a lack of talent or firepower -- Penn kept enough pressure on opponents to average nearly a full corner kick per game more than its foes. The problem for the Red and Blue was more a lack of experience that contributed to blown leads in three of their Ancient Eight losses, including the season-ending 4-3 gut-wrencher at Harvard. "Losing those tight games, we're not going to let that happen again," senior captain Henry Chen said. "It kind of pissed us off." It is a team that has been dragged over the coals, has the scars to prove it and refuses to make another trip over them. Add that experience to the heightened talent level that Fuller has recruited to play at Rhodes Field, and expectations are clearly raised for the Red and Blue coming into this, Fuller's third season at the controls. "The first year, we didn't have the personnel to compete with the Ivy League teams," Fuller said. "Last year, we were good enough to win in the Ivy League, but we were young and inexperienced. "We feel this year that if we're up in a game, we should win." That's all that can realistically be expected from a team that hasn't won an Ivy game since its seniors were freshmen -- but it is an expectation that absolutely must be fulfilled lest calls for Fuller's head begin to sound. After too many years in the doldrums, it is time for the Quakers to start to contend again, to begin to reclaim some of the glory days of the 1970s, when Seddon's troops stormed the pitch for back-to-back undefeated Ivy seasons and twice made the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. For the first time in years, Penn has reputable candidates for the All-Ivy team up and down the field, with depth to go with it. Fuller brought in seven freshmen along with Chamovitz to supplement the squad this season, meaning that the bumps and bruises sustained by players in preseason practices do not cause quite so much worry anymore. Fuller has brought the players in, and the talent, experience and depth should add up well for him. The task ahead is a hard one, but within reach -- to erase years of pent-up bad feelings and start to build a new tradition of soccer successComments powered by Disqus
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