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The Quakers took on Villanova's soccer team on Friday, resulting in a 0-1 loss despite a good effort by Penn. Credit: Pete Lodato

When two soccer teams reach the 88th minute of play without notching a goal, overtime comes to mind.

This Saturday, however, with just 1:04 before the end of regular play, the Penn men’s soccer team managed to put the game-winning goal past Cornell and earn its first conference win of the season.

Though the Quakers (7-2, 1-0 Ivy) traveled to Ithaca, N.Y., with a superior record to the Big Red, Cornell (3-3-3, 0-1 Ivy) proved to be far more of a challenge than the stat sheet indicated.

“In the past they’ve never really had great season, but they’ve always been a hard team to beat,” sophomore Travis Cantrell said.

The struggle to defeat the Big Red stemmed in part from its strong defense, which held the usually productive Quakers offense to just 10 shots.

“They don’t have guys taking breaks on the field,” Penn coach Rudy Fuller said. “It’s just a group of 11 guys that are working really hard for each other and with each other to win games.”

But Penn’s defense was equally solid, with a strong back four anchored by senior goalkeeper Ben Berg. Cornell tried to batter down that defensive wall in the beginning of the second half, but the Red and Blue effectively squashed their hopes of landing a ball beyond the reach of Berg’s fingertips.

“I thought our back four in particular — Tommy Brandt, Jake Levin, Steve Schlaefer, and Zach Barnett — I thought they were tremendous,” Fuller said. “As a whole, it was one of our most complete performances of the year by far, and I’m just glad they got the reward for it.”

While good defense will help anchor the Quakers on their path to an Ivy title, without a goal, it would have been impossible for Penn to eke out a victory over Cornell. And it was Cantrell who provided the necessary spark.

The Red and Blue had gone into the game knowing they would have some opportunities on the flanks because of Cornell’s tendency to play compact defense.

With just minutes to go in the game, sophomore Alex Tuch took advantage of a clear lane and dribbled down the line. Tuch sent the ball across the face of the goal and, while the Cornell defense attempted to clear the ball out, Cantrell managed to get a foot on it and volleyed the ball into the back of the net.

“[This game] really set the stage for the Ivy League season,” Cantrell said. “Every game is going to be a battle, and we can’t take anything for granted and we have to fight for every win.”

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