Rand McNally would come in real handy right about now if he could just outline a clear path to the back of the net for the Penn women's soccer team. A lack of firepower has been an ongoing concern for the Quakers, but the problem has been magnified in recent games. As the season nears an end with just five games remaining, the Red and Blue (7-4-1, 2-2) have scored just four goals in their last six contests as they prepare to battle Yale (7-6-1, 1-3) in New Haven, Conn., tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. The Elis are coming off a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Notre Dame on Wednesday. That is not as bad as it sounds, however, considering that the Irish are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation. Yale is leading the league in scoring with 33 total goals; that's 14 more than Penn. Despite their recent drought, the Quakers have managed to stay afloat because of their consistently spectacular defense. They have won three of those six games, while tying another. Still, the Penn women know that some more scoring punch in the past couple of weeks could have put the team in an infinitely more desirable spot in the league standings -- and given them a better chance to secure a second-straight bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Red and Blue currently claim fifth place in the Ivies, two games behind Princeton, which is 4-0 in league competition this year. Hopes of an Ivy title linger above Rhodes Field, but the Quakers are now resigned to looking over their shoulder a lot more than they would have preferred. The out-of-town scoreboard has become an increasingly essential instrument in measuring Penn's success in the 2000 campaign. And a 1-0 defeat to Loyola (Md.) on Tuesday did not help matters much, even though it wasn't a league game. "We have to go undefeated [from here on]," freshman midfielder/forward Heather Issing said. "But because of our Loyola loss, we have to depend on other teams." Penn head coach Darren Ambrose, as well as his players, know that one of the Quakers must emerge offensively and provide some leadership for the team. They hope that both of these objectives can be accomplished in tandem -- and soon. "We need some leadership," Ambrose said. "It doesn't have to be a senior; it just has to be someone who gives it to us when we need it." Sophomore forward Heidi Nichols, one of those whom Ambrose cites as needing a spark to recapture her early-season form, agrees with her coach. But she feels that multiple players must break out of their slumps. "I think everyone needs to step up," Nichols said. "It might start with one player, but the whole team needs to play as a unit." The Quakers will get a lift tomorrow when their captain and chief motivator on the field, Kelli Toland, returns from an injury in a limited role. Toland was sidelined for one game with a stress reaction in a bone on the top of her foot. The senior, who missed a game for the first time in her Penn career on Tuesday, is expected to see spot duty at Yale, but just having her out there part-time is worth a lot. "Her voice is one of the most encouraging things on the field," Issing said. Another obstacle that has now been cleared by the Quakers is a bombardment of midterms that caused a sluggish and sleep-deprived last few days. In light of this, Ambrose opted to give his team the day off on Wednesday, much to the delight of the Quakers. The team practiced again yesterday, and the coach seemed pleased with the intensity following a day's rest. "I think [yesterday's] practice was kind of a turning point," Issing said. "Darren was a little hard on us, and it brought us together."Comments powered by Disqus
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