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Against Towson on Friday, freshman midfielder Emily Sands dictated the Quakers' attack, facilitating their dominant first half. 

Credit: Angel Fan

It’s a footrace.

Penn goalkeeper Kitty Qu is off her line the second the ball slips past her defenders, but is not quick enough to see it secured into her hands. The freshman reaches the ball on the left edge of the 18-yard box at the same time as her Drexel opponent.

She does just enough to stop the first effort and buy herself some time, but as she sprints back to the safety of her own goal, the Drexel attacker rounds the top of the box and fires an effort back in her direction. Qu, looking at it dead on, gets a hand on it and takes some of the heat off the shot for her defenders to handle it.

It then takes two near-goal line clearances from fullbacks Tahirih Nesmith and Cami Nwokedi to remove the Quakers from danger.

“I think that really changed the game because it was a big team effort to save that goal,” said Qu, who had a slate of spectacular saves to keep the game level.

Not seven minutes later, the Red and Blue created arguably their best chance of the game when a blistering Sasha Stephens cross found freshman Emma Loving’s head on the six-yard box, but a fantastic save from Drexel keeper Christiana Ogunsam kept the game level.

After an intense two periods of overtime, the game ended scoreless, with numerous chances for both teams to pull ahead and that seven minute swing serving as a perfect excerpt to describe the back and forth between the University City neighbors.

On Sunday, Penn tied, 0-0, with Drexel (4-4-1), its first overtime game and first tie of the campaign. Two days before on Friday, the Quakers (4-1-1) defeated Towson, 2-0, in what was a dominant showing from the team. Both games were played at home on Rhodes Field.

Two games in three days brought their fair share of challenges, but the Red and Blue came out unharmed for the most part.

The Friday showing against Towson (3-6-1) was a typical Penn performance as coach Nicole Van Dyke’s team recorded a flurry of shots — eight in each half to the Tigers' four total.

The team’s first goal came from senior defender Paige Lombard in the 26th minute, but it took a while for the team to find that second piece of insurance.

“That second goal just doesn’t lock,” Van Dyke said. “You kind of get a little more confident, a little more gritty, but for us I think it was the 1-0 that kept us intense and kept us wanting and seeking that shutout.”

There was little doubt as to who was the more composed side on the day. Penn controlled the flow for much of the first half in large part due to freshman midfielder Emily Sands who had no trouble with the ball at her feet.

“I’m looking at the forwards to see what’s open, what’s on, trying to get in behind, and if not, trying to keep possession,” the Chester, PA., native said.

Sophomore forward Sasha Stephens finally broke through with less than 10 minutes to play, running onto a through ball from holding midfielder Allie Trzaska and slotting it into the bottom left corner with the keeper charging.

The Quakers ran into much more difficulty against the Dragons on Sunday, where it seemed like Drexel had more confidence on the ball in the first half.

“I think we came out in the first half and gave them too much respect,” Van Dyke said. “We wanted to score first, but I don’t know if our enthusiasm and our energy matched our desire.”

After having little difficulty finding the net first in their previous four games, the Red and Blue were placed in unfamiliar territory ending the first half without too many attempts on goal.

But coming out of halftime, the team looked reborn. More threats came from the Penn front four, and the backline continued to rise up to the occasion.

“I think the best thing to happen this weekend was that our backs defended,” Van Dyke added. “We’ve done a lot of attacking with our backs and haven’t had as much pressure. So in the last two games our back four has learned a ton.”

Now, with the Ivy opener coming up this weekend, the learning period is coming to close.

“We have the arsenal to win the league,” Qu finished. “And I’m looking forward to that.”

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