Penalty kicks are often described in the soccer community as being entirely down to chance. On Thursday night, Penn drew the short stick.
It took 110 minutes and penalties to determine a winner between Penn and Providence in the NCAA tournament first round game. In the end, the Friars came away with a 3-1 win in penalty kicks after finishing 1-1 through regulation and double overtime.
It didn’t take long for Penn to draw first blood, as senior midfielder Alex Reddy played a beautiful long ball from midfield for freshman Alec Neumann to latch onto.
Neumann held off the Providence defender and coolly slotted the ball into the side netting past Friars keeper Keasel Broome to give Penn a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute.
“We felt really good about how we came out at the start,” coach Rudy Fuller said. “We wanted to come out fast and we wanted to play fast for 90 minutes. We wanted to make it an up-tempo game.”
The Friars were quick to respond through senior forward Wilder Arboleda just 13 minutes later. Providence caused some chaos in the Penn box, and eventually the ball was played across the face of the goal for Arboleda to smash in the equalizer.
The game was a back-and-forth affair for the rest of regulation, as neither team could open the other up.
Sophomore goalkeeper Max Polkinhorne had a fantastic performance throughout the game, as he was required to make a couple impressive saves in the middle of the second half to keep the score at 1-1.
“We all knew what we needed to do, I was just doing my part out there,” Polkinhorne said. “Whether it was a big save or not a big save, it was just important to make sure we were making stops and keeping us in the game.”
Penn would have to wait until the final minute of regulation for their next clear chance at goal. With just seconds left on the clock, Penn sophomore midfielder Forrest Clancy found the ball at his feet and just the keeper to beat.
But the angle was too tight and Clancy’s shot went just wide of the far post, sending the game in to sudden death overtime.
Polkinhorne had a solid game in regulation, but he really put a show on during the overtime periods. The sophomore made four key saves to prevent a Providence winner and force the game in to kicks from the penalty spot.
While Polkinhorne was the star of overtime, Broome stole the show during penalty kicks. Broome made two diving saves to deny the Quakers from the spot and help the Friars to a 3-1 win in penalties.
Providence will advance to play Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Penn’s season has now come to a close, just five days after winning the Ivy League title.
“That group of seniors is a special group,” Fuller said. “They have been absolute warriors throughout this season.
“This loss is certainly a disappointment, being that it’s their lost game for Penn…but I don’t have any doubt that once they are able to put some time between this game and themselves, they will look back and have a lot of pride in the season they had.”
The Quakers still have plenty of young talent returning next season, and Fuller is insistent that this is just the start of his program taking off in the years ahead.
“This is just a stepping stone for bigger and better things for our program,” he said. “We want to challenge ourselves and see if we can become one of the nation’s elite.”
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