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Freshman Maddie Dawkins scored her first career goal in Penn's 1-0 win against USC Upstate on Sunday.

Credit: Khristian Monterroso , Khristian Monterroso

The first big road trip of the season is always a challenge, and while Penn women’s soccer’s weekend in South Carolina was by no means perfect, the two games the squad played offered plenty of reasons for optimism.

Despite picking up their first loss of the season on Friday night in a 2-1 game against No. 11 Clemson, the Quakers rebounded well, defeating USC Upstate on Sunday, 1-0.

The Quakers (4-1-0) began their weekend in the Palmetto State with a game against the undefeated Tigers, the first ranked program that Penn has faced all year. Eleven minutes into the first half, the Red and Blue suffered their first setback of the match when senior keeper Kalijah Terilli went down after a collision and did not return, prompting coach Nicole Van Dyke to replace her with junior Carrie Crook.

Despite the change, Penn’s defense held strong in the first half, and Crook made two saves to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard.

Clemson (6-0-0) then began to force the Quakers onto the defensive and were able to finally break through in the 54th minute when junior midfielder Catrina Atanda received a cross and buried it in the side netting for a 1-0 advantage. Eight minutes later, Clemson doubled its lead when a handball was called in the box against Penn, and Atanda dispatched the ensuing penalty kick.

The Quakers weren’t quite finished, however. In the 82nd minute, a free kick from 25 yards out off the foot of senior Erin Mikolai found the head of Paige Lombard, and the senior defender nodded it home for her second goal of the season. But a final offensive surge by Penn proved to be too little too late, and the squad dropped its first game of the season, 2-1, after having been outshot by the Tigers, 19-8.

“Overall, I think we played a very even game with them for most of the first half,” Van Dyke said. “They were able to capitalize on some of their chances in the second half, but overall I think we played a very organized and disciplined game.”

The team had little time to recover and was right back on the field 48 hours later, but Sunday’s game against USC Upstate proved to be a different kind of contest.

The Quakers took the offensive initiative right from the starting whistle, using a combination of speed and dominance in the midfield to pin the Spartans (1-6-1) in their own defensive third through much of the first half. But a few near misses by Penn’s forwards and a solid performance by Upstate’s senior keeper Ellen Bright kept the match scoreless heading into halftime, despite a 10-0 shot advantage in the Quakers’ favor.

“One thing we want to be able to do is capitalize on the chances that we have, and clearly that is something we need to continue to work on,” Van Dyke said.

Penn’s offensive pressure did eventually pay dividends in the second half when freshman Maddie Dawkins produced a one-time finish off a cross from freshman Sasha Stephens for the former’s first collegiate goal. The 69th-minute goal proved to be the deciding factor in the game, as the Spartans were unable to find a solution the Quakers’ stout back line, recording only one shot against Crook all game.

“One of the things the coaching staff was really happy about was the way the team went out there and attacked it in the second game after losing on Friday,” Van Dyke said. “One of the things we pride ourselves on is taking things game by game, and it’s always a good feeling when you can get on that bus on Sunday knowing that you came away with an important win.”

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