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09142012_MSoccerVVallinova(Zoe) Credit: Zoe Gan , Zoe Gan

Penn men’s soccer is running out of time to right the ship.

This Saturday, the Quakers will trek to Hanover, N.H., for a key Ivy League matchup against Dartmouth. In the 7 p.m. match, the Quakers (5-6, 1-1 Ivy) will look to pull out a win to keep their Ivy title hopes alive, with the Big Green (7-3-1, 2-0) in their way.

In last season’s tilt, the Quakers ran roughshod over the Big Green, defeating Dartmouth behind two goals from then-junior Duke Lacroix and another from then-freshman Alec Neumann . That win was key moment in Penn’s run to an Ivy title.

But recent weeks have not been as kind to the Red and Blue . The team followed up a 1-0 win against Cornell to open Ivy League play with losses against Columbia and Rutgers. In both losses, the Quakers held early leads only to later surrender the advantage for good. In fact, Penn has struck first in their last four matches.

It is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed moving forward, but coach Rudy Fuller does not believe that the answer lies in a change of style of play or in his team’s conditioning.

“Against Rutgers, it wasn’t a collapse,” he said. “We were defending poorly in both halves, and it just caught up to us.”

As a forward, Neumann may have looked at the Rutgers loss differently, noting that the offense should also share part of the blame for the Quakers’ disappointing performance.

“It’s a group effort,” he said. “On the attacking side, we had opportunities to put them away, especially in the first half.”

For the Quakers, the duo of Lacroix and Neumann have combined for two-thirds of the team’s 18 goals. As talented as the two forwards are, the Quakers seem to be in need of a third goal-scorer on offense.

Junior midfielders Forrest Clancy and Sam Engs each have two goals on the season, and Clancy also has four assists. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if one of these two steps into that role.

Dartmouth, meanwhile, has a much more balanced offensive attack, as the Big Green have only one player — Alex Adelabu at five goals — who has scored more than three goals this season.

In goal, junior keeper Max Polkinhorne has started all 11 games for the Quakers and leads the Ivy League with 58 saves. His .725 save percentage also ranks among the leaders, but his 2.04 GAA is the highest among full-time keepers in the Ivy League. As Fuller suggested, Penn’s defenders are allowing far too many balls into Polkinhorne’s range.

For Dartmouth, Stefan Cleveland is likely to start in goal. He has seven starts, 16 saves and a .667 save percentage. His GAA of 1.10 is almost a full goal lower than Polkinhorne’s, despite a lower save percentage.

All of these problems will need to be fixed immediately. With one Ivy loss already and several other nonconference defeats, this match is close to a must-win for the Red and Blue.

Despite the Quakers’ recent struggles, Neumann is confident they can pull through and turn things around in Ivy play.

“We just have to come together as a group and gather the strength to win those games.”

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