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Women's soccer beat Villanova 1-0 at PPL park, home of the Philadelphia Union. Credit: Katie Rubin , Katie Rubin

Perhaps it was the bright lights or the big stage, but even in the win, the women’s soccer team came out flat at PPL Park Friday night.

“We thought the occasion was too big for us and we didn’t do some of the things we planned to do,” coach Darren Ambrose said. “Villanova looked the more confident and mature team, but to our credit we absorbed [the pressure] they threw at us.”

In need of a response, Penn got one only minutes after the break. Forward Kathryn Barth found freshman Megan York, whose cool finish from six yards proved the difference as Penn downed Villanova, 1-0, spoiling the Wildcats’ (4-2-2) previously unbeaten record.

The win, coupled with a 2-0 victory over St. Joseph’s on Sunday, maintained Penn’s perfect slate (4-0-0) without conceding a goal. Not since 1998, when the Quakers opened the year 6-0-1, has Penn engineered such a promising start to the season.

However, Friday’s victory was anything but a sure result. A rather drab first half saw Penn fail to connect any passes and without any real scoring opportunities.

The Quakers’ lack of precision forced them to absorb the Wildcats’ pressure, which began in the first minute when Villanova’s Alexa Carugati sprang Stephanie Myers, who got a clear shot from fifteen yards. Fortunately for Penn, keeper Sarah Banks was eager to the task.

Late in the half, Penn’s struggles reached a zenith as a driven cross found a wide-open Villanova forward Caitlin Forte in the box, but a heavy touch let the striker down and was cleared without any damage. The Wildcats missed opportunity would come back to bite them.

“‘Are we a team that talks about things or a team that acts?’ is all I had to say,” said Ambrose of his halftime speech. “They knew they didn’t play well in the first half. They were disappointed. And we’ve talked about things all season and what [a] team we can be. They respond because they’re competitive kids.”

The Red and Blue had a fortuitous start to the second half. Barth received the ball and made a move to the byline, beating her defender. She slipped the ball to York, whose left-footed finish marked the first goal of her promising collegiate career.

“It was exciting,” York said. “I can’t even describe it. It was crazy, but our coach told us to remember that it was a field with two goals and we couldn’t forget that. I tried to tune everything else out.”

As the second half wore on, the game started to open up, while Penn tried to absorb the Wildcats’ pressure. In the 75th minute, ’Nova had another pair of golden opportunities.

A dipping in-swinger by Victoria Gersh was left sailing just over the head of Katie Ryan. Less than a minute later, Heidi Sabatura managed to flick on a low cross that a sprawling Caroline Williams just kept out.

“I’ve played with many of these players and I know they are very crafty,” said Williams, who continues to deputize the goalie position with Banks. “I was watching in the first half all the crosses and how dangerous they are in front of goal. It was just a last-minute reaction and thank God Colleen [Barry] was able to clear it.”

On Sunday, the Penn team defeated Saint Joseph’s (1-3-2) with two goals and a five-star performance from Kerry Scalora. The sophomore winger provided the service to Barth for the first goal and then six minutes later, fired a free kick from the edge of the penalty area to give the Quakers a comfortable victory.

Penn was playing without senior forward Ursula Lopez-Palm, who did not dress against the Hawks after injuring her knee in the second half of the Villanova game.

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