Dr. Seuss, a Dartmouth alum, often extolled the virtues of leaving one’s comfort zone, of engaging wholeheartedly in the journey that is life. However, if you ask members of Penn men’s soccer about the places they’ll go, Hanover, N.H., is no longer included on their lists.
The Quakers couldn’t stop the Big Green machine from mowing them over on Saturday, as Penn lost a crucial Ivy matchup, 4-1. Although the match was closer than the final tally suggests, the Red and Blue will find no solace in the scoreboard or in the newly updated Ivy League table, which leaves Penn (3-3-5, 1-2 Ivy) sixth out of eight teams, ahead of winless Cornell and Yale. Dartmouth (4-2-5, 2-0-1), after its victory, moves into a tie for first with Columbia and Harvard.
Penn began fighting uphill from the match’s onset. A Quaker clearance off of an aggressive Dartmouth throw-in found its way to Dartmouth junior Tyler Dowse, who launched a beautiful lob into the Quakers’ penalty box. Big Green leading goalscorer Noah Paravicini chested it away from his defender and ripped a half-volley past sophomore goalie Etan Mabourakh’s outstretched mitts to put Dartmouth on top just seven minutes into the match
This rapid, miss-it-if-you-blink style of offense was a sign of things to come for the Quakers. Dartmouth had its way with the Penn defense on the counterattack. Slow-footed retreats after Penn offensive surges led to a plethora of opportunities for the Big Green and, unlike the Quakers, they made sure to convert.
Coach Rudy Fuller lamented his team’s inability to get back on defense, which he pointed to as the main reason for the loss.
“On transition they punished us,” Fuller said. “It’s a little bit of [both a lack of communication and getting back quickly]. When you look at a goal that happens in transition, it certainly starts with not having proper pressure on the ball in the midfield. And then it comes down to our guys not recognizing that they’re trying to drop the ball off early.”
This was the difference in a match that was, Fuller claimed, statistically even. Despite Dartmouth’s clear advantage in shots taken, Penn was constantly aggressive on the offensive end and was rewarded often in the form of set piece opportunities. The day ended with the Quakers holding a two-to-one advantage in corner kicks, but due to poor deliveries and errant shots, Penn was held scoreless until it was far too late.
“The number of corners gives you an idea of where the game was played. We had possession of the ball, we were on their end quite a bit,” Fuller commented. “The service has got to be better. We have a few guys that are capable of serving a really good ball but we missed those opportunities.”
A good deal of credit, however, must go to Dartmouth’s conference-best defense. The Big Green sport a tall, physical back line led by first team All Ivy defender Wyatt Omsberg that has only allowed an impressive average of .83 goals per game this season. They did much to bottle up Penn’s main offensive threats like senior and Ivy-leading goalscorer Alec Neumann, whose goal streak was halted after three straight matches of finding the net.
Dartmouth’s one defensive error came as the sun set on a picturesque New Hampshire afternoon, granting the Quakers one last ray of hope. A short cross by sophomore defender Erumuse Momoh found the head of senior captain Matt Poplawski, who calmly deposited his third goal of the season to bring the score to 3-1. But any hope of a comeback was snuffed out as Penn ceded a penalty to Dartmouth just minutes later.
Though not a fatal blow to their Ivy title chances, Penn’s loss to the Big Green makes their margin of error for the rest of the season very slim. With four matchups remaining, the Quakers will likely have to run the table to have any shot at winning the conference crown.