The Penn women's soccer team set a lofty bar for itself last year, and it's ready to raise it even more this season. Expectations are very high following the Quakers' 13-4-1 campaign last season, which included a sterling 6-1 mark in the Ivy League and landed Penn into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their nine-year history. "We're looking good now," senior co-captain Kelli Toland said. "I think we're really optimistic." The road to becoming one of the league's preeminent squads had more than its share of bumps, though. Former Florida State assistant Darren Ambrose represents the third head coach the Red and Blue have had in as many years. "It hasn't been too bad adjusting, but it is frustrating to go from coach to coach," said sophomore forward Heather Taylor, who was recruited during the Patrick Baker regime and played last year under Andy Nelson. The transition process for Taylor and the rest of the Quakers has been eased somewhat since Ambrose subscribes to a rather similar school of coaching as the one practiced by his predecessor, Nelson, who left to take over head coaching duties at Stanford in the spring. "My philosophy all along was that it's not broken, so don't try to fix it," Ambrose said. "Their style of play is very, very similar," said senior midfielder Angela Konstantaras, comparing Ambrose to Nelson. That's not to say there won't be a number of important differences between this and past years. Without the dynamic twin duo of forwards Andrea and Jill Callaghan, who graduated last spring, Ambrose plans to enact an offensive scheme more suited to the personnel on this year's team. This offensive scheme will have the Quakers play a possession-oriented style, rather than the up-and-down attack the Red and Blue have favored at times in the past. The coach expects progress to continue on offense throughout the season, but he admits Penn's goal-scoring ability might be in need of some polishing at this point. "If there's going to be one place that we need to fine-tune, it will be in front of the goal," Ambrose said. On the other hand, the Red and Blue are confident that their strong defense and sense of team unity will be enough to overcome the occasional offensive lulls. "We have a good team chemistry," Ambrose said. "This team is used to dealing with adversity." Many of the more experienced players on the team will also bank on their experience and feel for the game to give them a lift. "Our biggest strength right now is our mental game," Konstantaras said. Similarly, the Quakers are not a flashy team that will be led by just one or two superstars. Rather, they will rely on each and every player to work toward a successful season. "Our team has never been a team of standouts," Toland said. "Everyone steps up and contributes." And the first chance for all of the Quakers to do just that comes today at 4 p.m., when Penn will open its season at Delaware. The Red and Blue have conquered the Blue Hens in their last three meetings, but Penn isn't taking anything for granted. "I'm more worried right now about Delaware than an Ivy League team. It's their fourth game, our first," Ambrose said. The Blue Hens will also play a brand of offense that runs counter to Penn's style. "They're extremely aggressive," Toland said. "They like to go forward, they like to attack." After the Delaware match, the Quakers will have their home opener on Sunday afternoon versus St. Joseph's at Rhodes Field. The Red and Blue know they are capable of having a very solid weekend, which they hope could get them started on the way to another NCAA appearance this November. "We want to win the Ivy League," Taylor said. "We want to play well for our first game, and we definitely want to win.Comments powered by Disqus
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