After a long journey, Penn women’s soccer will come back to Rhodes Field one last time to wrap up its 2016 campaign.
The Quakers (9-3-2, 2-2-1 Ivy) will host Brown this Saturday in down in Penn Park for their senior game and second-to-last game of the season. A lot will be riding on this contest, as the Bears (8-2-4, 3-1-1) are currently sitting in third place in the conference while Penn sits right beneath them in fourth.
The Red and Blue are coming in with a full head of steam, after defeating Army, 2-0, on Monday to continue their undefeated run on the road. In fact, they have picked up 10 points from their last available 12, only conceding once in those games.
As far as strategy goes, Penn coach Nicole Van Dyke knows that if her team can continue to play their style of soccer, the results should follow.
“We are focused a bit more on ourselves this week, we are confident with our abilities to compete with everyone in conference and any anyone that we play,” she said. “Things we’re working on offensively are maybe using the width a bit more effectively in the attack, but outside of that, we’re just hoping that in the last couple weeks we’re putting everything together to get us that last win at home.”
Brown will not go down easily though, as they enter this game on the heels of a 1-0 win over Cornell where they outshot the Big Read on goal, 5-0. Van Dyke believes the teams are neck-and-neck in most regards, but believes her squad can triumph.
“There are a lot of parallels between the two teams. It’s going to be a bit of a chess match. Both teams are difficult to score on, but we do feel we have a bit more firepower. So in those key moments, we’re hoping we don’t need 10 opportunities, we might need just one or two and be really precise in those moments,” Van Dyke said.
For senior Oliver Blaber, who is coming off a goal and an assist at West Point, this game will be quite different in feel than the many others in her four years.
“It’s crazy to think that it’s our last game. I remember thinking freshman year that senior night is so far away, and now it’s upon us, which gives us a little extra to play for,” Blaber said. “We also have to keep in mind our goals for the season, and letting emotion fuel us, but not take over. We want to go out swinging and put on a great performance, and really leave it all out on the field for our last time stepping on Rhodes.”
To that tune, fellow senior Tahirih Nesmith is aware of the emotions running high for her final contest at Penn and what it means to finish strong.
“The biggest thing for us now is how we finish. A lot of people wanna look at other teams and how they’re doing but that’s not really something we do. We’re really just worried about ourselves and how we can improve,” Nesmith said. “This last home game, especially for us as seniors, is really about having an ending that will lead to a better beginning for the next generation of girls on the team. It’s the final cherry on top and giving the future teams the foundations to build off of in the next seasons to come.”
As far as the rest of team, Nesmith believes everyone will rally around this final curtain call match.
“We’re a very family-oriented team and I know that the girls really wanna play for the older ones who only have two games left, and one at home, so I think everyone really wants to give their last, best efforts for this group.”
Regarding the gravity of this contest, Van Dyke underscored what this win could mean for the team and players individually.
“We feel that we’re one of the top teams in the conference so getting the win against Brown, which moves us into third place above them on head-to-head, will be great for our seniors and the entire team at this point,” Van Dyke said.
Although first place may be out of reach, Penn is still fighting to finish the season on a high note, and still passionate for every game.
“We have a great opportunity this year to close out this week against Brown and then next week against Princeton and try to finish in the top three, which is a really good position to be in the last two weeks,” Blaber said.
So for one last “Hurrah,” Penn will put it all out there at Rhodes Field and hope to send the seniors off with a “W.”
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