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Heather Issing, far right, was called for an incidental handball in overtime on Saturday.

Any loss is hard to swallow.

But some you just want to spit out like an unchewed piece of week-old steak.

The Penn women's soccer team (4-1-1, 0-1-0 Ivy League) got that feeling last Saturday after a crushing 2-1 overtime defeat to Dartmouth (4-2-0, 1-1-0) at Rhodes Field.

The outcome was tough to take because it was the Quakers' first loss of the season. The defeat was even harder to accept because Penn was overcome by Dartmouth on its home turf.

But the loss was outright devastating for the Quakers because the outcome of the game was effectively taken out of their control by the referee.

The official called an incidental handball in the 18-yard box on defender Heather Issing at the 4:25 mark of overtime.

And Dartmouth junior Mary McVeigh put the nail in the coffin, as she sent the ball past sprawling Penn goalie Vanessa Scotto, leaving the Quakers stunned.

"This is the first time I've seen an official decide the game," Penn coach Darren Ambrose said. "He stole the game from us.

"You hate to see the game decided by an official on an incidental hand ball, when we were not stopping play and not taking the advantage away from them."

It was as if Penn's emotions were tossed around by the gusts of wind that swirled around Rhodes Field on this cool, blustery fall day, as the Quakers began this game on an upswing.

Freshman Rachelle Snyder, Penn's sparkplug and leading goal-scorer, put the Quakers on the board just three minutes into the game.

It seemed as if Penn might take this game in stride and continue its undefeated streak.

But just 20 minutes later, miscommunication between Scotto and the defense allowed Big Green junior Annie Gibson to loft a chip shot into the net, knotting the game at one. It was the first goal Scotto had allowed all season.

For the rest of regulation, the contest went back and forth, with the Quakers unable to muster any threatening scoring opportunities. Dartmouth, on the other hand, gave netminder Scotto several scares in the second half.

Going into overtime, it seemed as if momentum had shifted to the Big Green. And at around the five-minute mark of the first overtime period, Dartmouth began to attack, and a flurry in the penalty box led to the referee's whistle and, consequently, the game-clinching tally.

"They put pressure on us with the wind behind them and came out on top," Ambrose said. "It was not to be."

Still, the Quakers did have several scoring opportunities that they failed to capitalize on, a noticeable problem in an otherwise successful season.

"The winners of the Ivy League are going to be those who finish their chances," Ambrose said.

This loss is more than just a heart-breaking defeat. It is a test for the young Quakers, who have yet to face such adversity all season.

"We can't wait to play [tomorrow]," Ambrose said. "We're a young team that will learn from this. We put ourselves [in the situation to lose the game] so we have to live with the consequences."

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