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Junior Erin Mikolai will be key if Penn women's soccer can find an Ivy win this weekend, as she has been a big part of the squad's offense this year.

After falling in both Ivy games it has played so far, Penn women’s soccer is looking to reverse its fortune.

But the Quakers (4-3-2) have a tough weekend ahead of them, facing a hard Ivy test against Columbia on Friday and a nonconference duel with Navy.

The Lions (5-1-4) comes in strong having won or tied each of their last eight matches. Navy (6-3-4) is also having a strong season, having either won or tied their past three games.

The confidence level of the two teams will be high, and is something that the Quakers need to work on. Though Penn has defeated Columbia for the past three years and took down Navy last year, they are still approaching the game like any other.

“Every single game has to be a dogfight now,” junior midfielder Erin Mikolai said. “We still have a chance, but we have to get it into out mentality that it’s going to be a fight from here on out. We’re going to come out to kill. We have to come 100 percent.”

“When you have as many younger players as we do, they struggle with the consistency and the intensity of the Ivy League games,” coach Darren Ambrose added. “The intensity of those games is significantly different, and that’s what they’re still growing into.”

The team is working on creating chances and executing at the net in order to get ready for the games against Columbia and Navy. Mikolai said the only way to translate it to the games is “if you constantly practice it in repetition.” And her coach agrees.

“It’s layering things in,” he said. “We’re constantly adding to their understanding, […] and we’re at a point in the season that there’s a bit more showing up in games.”

Mikolai takes the responsibility to help with this progression as well as kicking ass on the field. With three assists and plenty of shots on goal in the last three games alone, she has proven herself yet is still looking to improve.

“We still need to work on pressure in the midfield, our defense and working the ball form defense to midfield to forward,” she said. “It’s a whole team effort.”

Mikolai’s efforts to get the team back on track has not gone unnoticed by teammates and coaches alike.

“She’s been a great leader on the team,” senior forward Clara Midgley said of Mikolai.

“She has a huge influence on what happens on and off the field. She’s one of the strongest players on this team.” Ambrose added. “She’s shouldering a lot of responsibility this year. She’s a great attacking player and she creates they chances, but we just want her to be a bit more selfish and put herself into some more dangerous positions on the field.”

Penn is ready to face the heat in these two upcoming games. The only question is if they can play the entire 90 minutes with such high energy and concentration at an extremely high level.

With a leader like Mikolai, that 90 minute effort may be forthcoming.

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