The Penn men's soccer team had a disappointing season last fall. After losing nearly half of their games by one goal, the Quakers posted a 4-11-2 overall record that included no Ivy wins for the second consecutive year. But this season, with the addition of seven talented freshmen, All-Patriot League transfer Sam Chamovitz and a newly resodded Rhodes Field, Penn coach Rudy Fuller is confident that his team will have more success this fall. "Last year, we had six or seven freshmen starting," Fuller said. "Our record was a product of our inexperience. Last year, we felt like it was a necessity to have freshmen starting. This year we don't have that necessity -- 20 out of 27 guys are returning players." Penn junior John Salvucci believes that the Quakers played well in most of last season's games, and that it usually came down to a few minutes of bad luck in a game that cost them the victory. "We're more mature now," Salvucci said, noting that the Quakers have been working on defense and will be playing four defenders instead of the three that was standard last year. The Quakers will be playing under much more hospitable conditions this season. Sophomore midfielder Nathan Kennedy believes the resodding of Rhodes Field, which took place over the summer, will drastically improve the Quakers' performance. Fuller agrees, noting that the field went from being "one of the worst fields in the country" to being one of best. In the preseason, which began August 25, Penn has had three scrimmages against Mercer County Community College, Monmouth and a traveling team from Ireland. Penn fell 2-1 to Mercer in overtime, tied Monmouth 0-0 and triumphed over the Irish team, 3-1. Injuries kept several starters --including Chamovitz and senior captain Henry Chen -- from playing in the scrimmages. "We haven't had our best out on the field yet, and I'm not sure we'll have them on the field on Friday," Fuller said. "We used the scrimmages to get a look at some of the other players." In addition to having new freshman talent, Fuller also notes the positive impact that the arrival of Chamovitz and the presence of junior Jeff Groeber will have on the team. Groeber will be replacing goalkeeper Mike O'Conner, who started in every Penn game but one last year before graduating in the spring. O'Conner was voted Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 1996 and is currently playing professionally in the A-League with the Hershey Wildcats. "Last year, we were fortunate to have two starting-caliber goalkeepers," Fuller said. "I expect [Groeber] to be as good or better than Mike over the course of the year." Chamovitz, who scored 11 goals for Bucknell last season and earned All-Patriot League and Mid-Atlantic honors in 1999, will also be a valued asset. "Sammy can win a game on his own," Fuller said. "He has given the rest of the guys on the team a lot of confidence going into this year." Although all the Quakers' Ivy games have been struggles over the past two seasons, Yale, Brown and Princeton -- which Penn will face in late October -- are anticipated to be the toughest matches of the season. Rutgers, which will play Penn on October 25, will also push the Red and Blue to their limits. The Quakers will open their season today at home against St. Francis (Pa.). In last year's match against St. Francis, the Red Flash started out by scoring two quick goals. Though the Quakers managed to notch one score early on, they were unable to catch up and fell, 2-1. "It was one of our worst losses," Groeber said. "They're a team we should have beat. We're looking for revenge." With more and more injured players getting back into action, Fuller believes the Quakers are ready to win today. "We are certainly on the upswing, and we're hitting our stride at the right time," he said. "The team attitude is drastically different this year than last year. They have a lot of confidence and know how good they can be, and they're determined to show that to the school, the league and the rest of the country.Comments powered by Disqus
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