The celebrations are over. Now it’s back to business for Penn men’s soccer.
On Saturday, the Quakers clinched the Ivy League title and an NCAA tournament berth in Boston. And on Monday, Penn drew Providence as its first-round opponent for Thursday.
The accolades continued for the Red and Blue (8-8-1) on Wednesday, as seven Quakers were given All-Ivy honors, including junior captain Duke Lacroix receiving Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year.
Despite the emotions and energy spent over the past few days, Penn coach Rudy Fuller is confident his team will be entirely focused against Providence (12-5-3) on Thursday.
“There’s so much to play for — I can’t foresee us coming out flat,” Fuller said. “We talk about it being a new season now that the regular season is over.”
It came as a surprise to many around the program that the Quakers were offered a home game for the first round, and the squad wants to maximize attendance in order to get the most out of home field advantage.
Since it is an NCAA tournament event, fans will be charged for admission. However, Penn has offered free admission to the first 200 students, and Fuller even chipped in by personally offering free entry to the next 100 students.
“I hope that it’s a huge advantage,” Fuller said. “I hope we have a great crowd and the Philadelphia soccer community, and the Penn community turns out because it has the potential to be a special night.”
This is the first time in history that Penn will play the Friars, but the Quakers won’t be caught off guard by Providence’s style of play.
The Red and Blue will try to close down the Friars constantly to expose one of their opponents’ weaknesses.
“Throughout the year we’ve been really good at pressing teams pretty high up the field,” freshman forward and second-team All-Ivy selection Alec Neumann said. “We know that their goalie has good hands but he is shaky with his feet, so we are going to try to exploit that.”
One player who was already somewhat familiar with the Providence squad is Lacroix. The forward spent the summer playing with Providence goalkeeper Keasel Broome on the Ocean City Nor’easters, a semi-professional team.
“He’s a good friend of mine, we’ve been in touch all year,” Lacroix said. “So to play against him is really special and it’s a good opportunity to see him again.
“There’s been a little bit of trash talk.”
The Red and Blue will be without junior midfielder Louis Schott, who was named to the All-Ivy first team. Schott earned a red card and a one-game suspension in the final minute against Harvard.
“Louis is an important player for our team, there’s no question about it,” Fuller said. “That being said, time and time again this season, we’ve had guys step up … and we’ve proven we have quality depth within the team.
“I’m confident that whoever steps in to that role is going to do the job and allow us to perform.”
On Thursday, the Ivy League title and All-Ivy honors won’t matter. Effort and execution will determine which team gets to extend their season one more game.
“We feel very good about our preparations for Providence and I don’t think there are going to be any surprises on both ends,” Fuller said. “On the night, the team that executes better is going to come out with a win.”
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