Consistency at the top is the key for any team with hopes for a title. However, for Penn women’s soccer, staying consistent within the Ivy League is becoming a challenging task.
Fans have seen the brilliance and explosiveness of the Red and Blue (7-3-2, 1-2-1 Ivy) against non-conference teams and Cornell (in a convincing 5-0 victory). Sophomore Sasha Stephens and freshman Emma Loving are not only leading the team as forwards but also as the top scorers; scoring four and six goals, respectively, in 12 games.
The experienced back line, led by senior captain Paige Lombard, has been exceptional and only conceded eight goals this season so far. Freshman goalkeeper Kitty Qu is also having a great season, keeping a clean sheet in six matches.
Penn’s coach Nicole Van Dyke has built off of the solid defense of last season, and her team’s improved playing style, especially offensively, is evident in all the stats. The Quakers are outscoring their opponents, 26-8, getting more shots on goal, 172-81, and forcing more saves from the opponents’ goalkeepers. In terms of almost every statistic, Penn dominates the field and is definitely a difficult force to attack and defend against. However, the statistical advantages are not necessarily equating into wins for Penn in the conference.
After suffering two heartbreaking losses by the minimum lead against Harvard and Columbia and tying Dartmouth, 1-1, in its last match on Saturday, Penn certainly wants to boost their form in Ivy play by securing a win at New Haven against Yale this weekend. The Bulldogs (5-5-3, 1-2-1) share the same conference record as Penn and will similarly hope to use this matchup as an opportunity to regain their form for the end of the season.
Creating chances, keeping up momentum, and maintaining a formidable defense are not the biggest issues by any means for Penn — they have to be more efficient in front of goal. In preparation for their trip up to New Haven, Van Dyke is hoping that the team improves in making quality chances and capitalizing on them.
“We played well against Dartmouth,” she said. “However, this weekend, we want to do a better job making one more pass for a definite goal. Rather than getting too anxious while forward, I think that making that extra crucial pass can create really important opportunities.”
Van Dyke explained that she believes the Quakers can improve defensively in the middle of the pitch.
“Our forwards did a great job keeping the ball ahead, and since we like to have numbers up forward, especially having the outside backs go up, we want to be better at transitioning from defense to offense so that we can continually win the ball in better spots.”
Van Dyke is also very confident in her team’s ability and is determined that they will have a stronger remainder of the season.
“We have proven that we are battle-tested on the road and we are not afraid of an away game. We are making more good opportunities this year compared to last, but I know we can make better ones by completing one more pass and getting in behind the other team’s defense.”
Penn are currently sharing fourth place in the conference with Princeton and Yale. Saturday’s match against will be extremely crucial if Penn is to have a solid finish.