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Senior forward Olivia Blaber has helped to power a strong offensive start from the Quakers, who have scored six goals in their first two games.

Credit: Alex Fisher , Alex Fisher

If you plan on going to a Penn women’s soccer game this season, make sure you get there on time.

So far in their young season, the Quakers (1-1-0) have seen much of the goal scoring action, both for and against them, happen within the opening minutes of their matches.

The Red and Blue started off the season yielding two goals in the first 12 minutes en route to a 3-1 loss to Maryland, but the team responded last weekend. With a barrage of four first-half goals — including three in the first nine minutes — Penn cruised to a 5-0 victory against Robert Morris.

The quick start is something that both the coaching staff, led by Penn coach Nicole Van Dyke and the team have focused on so far this year and want to continue leading up to this weekend’s double header.

“In soccer you always want to get that first goal, but it is something that we actually talk to the team about in pregame,” Van Dyke said. “We said, ‘Hey, what are some of the things you guys want to focus on as a group,’ and they named that. One of the things they said was, ‘We want to get off to a quicker start and be a little sharper.’ That was the player’s goal in pregame, and we were happy that they accomplished that.”

Another point of emphasis from the coaching staff this year for Penn was getting the defensive backs moving up the field and becoming more involved in the offense. The Quakers struggled to score goals last season, and part of Van Dyke’s new philosophy involved taking more risks with their defense.

The squad has already reaped some of the rewards of the new system, as the defense contributed significantly in the Robert Morris game. Senior Paige Lombard scored the team’s second goal with a header off a corner kick, while sophomore Cami Nwokedi assisted on Emma Loving’s second goal.

“Off the top of my head I know at least three goals have come automatically because the outside backs were involved,” Van Dyke said. “Any time that we have the ball and our outside backs are both in the final third, it means that we’ve pinned teams in and we’re in the right area. We’re going to continue to work on that, it’s a competitive position and I think we have a lot of good players, everyone who has stepped in has impacted the game in their own way.”

The Red and Blue kick off their weekend double header at home on Friday at 7 p.m. against a Lafayette team that has posted the best start in program history. In five games so far, the Leopards have yet to lose, going 3-0-2. Strong defense and goalkeeping from the back end of Lafayette’s squad has led to only three goals against, as opposed to the 10 goals they have scored.

The Quakers then travel to Delaware to square off with a struggling University of Delaware squad on Sunday at noon. The defense for the Blue Hens (1-5-0) has been under siege so far, with opponents scoring 13 goals on 109 shots in just 6 games. But the team is also coming off their first win and shutout of the season.

The quick turnaround between the two games this weekend, with just over 40 hours from kickoff to kickoff, represents the shortest amount of time in between games Penn will have this season. Still, the team is not concerned.

“I think for the returners this is pretty typical, for the first few weeks of the season to go Friday-Sunday, but this’ll be the first quick turnaround for the freshman, and a lot of them will be playing a lot,” senior captain Olivia Blaber said. “It’ll definitely be something in terms of our recovery on Saturday and recovery right after the game, that’s important, but in terms of how we think about the game, we’re still going to put everything out there.”

With Ivy League play only a few weeks away, the Red and Blue are looking for every opportunity to build momentum and improve as a team. This week gives them just that chance.

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