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5 Kyle Soroka D 2 Jake Levin D Credit: Alex Remnick

Just one weekend into the season, the men’s soccer team is looking more like the team that captured the Ivy title two years ago than last year’s sub-.500 team.

Like the championship squad which did not allow an opponent to score until the seventh game of the season, the defense — anchored by Jake Levin, who started all 18 games in 2008 — has a spotless record.

Meanwhile, the offense has combined to score as many goals in two games as it did in the first four last year.

Last year, after losing 12 seniors and returning only two starters, the Quakers did not pick up a win until the fourth game of the season, stumbling to a 6-8-3 record.

This year, however, with the addition of seven talented freshmen and renewed determination, the Red and Blue have set their sights on reclaiming their place at the top.

“We have everybody coming back from last year’s team, and in addition to that we had a really good incoming class, so what we’re looking to build on is to tap into that experience and hopefully turn that into greater success this year,” head coach Rudy Fuller said.

Fuller’s confidence extends to the players. The team identified winning the Ivy championship and going to the NCAA championship as two goals for the season, and junior Christian Barreiro sees this group of players as having “what it takes to perform at a high level consistently.”

In order to take back the hardware, Penn must be able to pull out wins in close games.

In both of the games played into double overtime last season, the Quakers came away with losses. Those losses reflected the youth and inexperience of the team, as well as the need to improve on fitness, which was a top priority during the offseason.

“When a game goes into overtime guys’ legs are shot already, and I think one thing we’ve improved on this year is our fitness,” Barreiro said.

“In preseason we did a lot of fitness tests and exercises, and that really helps us, so I think we’re good for more than 90 [minutes] if we need to.”

Competition amongst the players for starting positions has added to the motivation of the players during practice.

While the lineups employed by Fuller in the two games thus far have been similar, the players will continue to battle for starting spots throughout the season.

Though the team returns all but two seniors from last year, strong play from its freshmen early on has magnified the competition.

Further, a young infusion to the team provides hope not only for this season, but years to come.

Freshman Stephen Baker has already racked up three goals and one assist in two games — including a La Salle match that he only played in for one half.

“It’s good to be able to come in right away and make an impact and be able to help the team out in whatever ways they need me to,” Baker said. “But it’s definitely exciting to be able to come into a team and play with some success.”

And after a rebuilding year, a promising start points toward a season in which a trophy may grace Rhodes field once again.

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