The final stretch of Ivy play approaches for Penn Athletics’ fall teams. The sports editors debate: Who is the MVP of the fall thus far?
Senior Sports Editor Nick Buchta: There’s almost an embarrassment of riches to pick from on Penn women’s soccer — almost all of them freshmen! — but I think the quiet hero on that team is goalkeeper Kitty Qu. Goalkeepers tend to get attention when they let up goals — the less we’re talking about them, usually, the better. But Qu’s rookie year has been something special.
Qu has allowed only six goals all season — Penn’s offense, alternatively, has scored 26. In the last six weeks, opponents have found the net just three times in eight games.
Even more specifically, let’s look at the goals she has allowed. Not a single one has come in the course of action. Qu has given up a goal off of a free kick, two off corners and three off of penalties. But that’s it. Just penalties and set pieces. Over 1,010 minutes and not one goal in the heart of the action. That’s absurd.
Unfortunately, the few goals she has allowed have come at inopportune times. The questionable penalty versus Harvard, an overtime corner versus Columbia, the second-half penalty at Dartmouth — all in games where the Quakers’ terrifying offensive assault wasn’t able to get much else going.
The Red and Blue pride themselves on the ability to take an early lead and run with it. A significant part of their success in doing that is rooting in Qu’s play. Without her steady head in goal, Penn simply would not have to opportunities to play ahead that they’ve relied so heavily on this season. If Qu’s only doing this as a freshman, it’s scary what the next three years might bring.
Sports Editor Will Snow: If all of the fall sports ended today (heaven forbid they do), then Penn’s MVP would have to be football’s star running back Tre Solomon. The junior is a new man this season, as he himself has admitted. From sharing time last year to the heart of the Quakers’ running game now, Solomon has torn it up on the field with about 500 yards through five games so far — best in the Ivy League. While 100 yards a game may not seem too impressive, bear in mind that the Quakers don’t run too much — and Solomon is averaging almost six yards a carry.
But his influence doesn’t end there — he’s even taking snaps and playing quarterback now! In one of coach Ray Priore’s new offensive packages, Solomon lines up in the backfield with two other running backs, while senior quarterback Alek Torgersen sits on the sidelines. The formation has been devastating, and, against Columbia last weekend, Solomon even logged a 23-yard touchdown pass to Cam Countryman. If his sheer numbers on the ground don’t earn him this hypothetical MVP honor, then his versatility should.
He’s also come up big with some huge plays. Look at the highlight reel from the Dartmouth or Columbia wins, and you’ll find some eye-popping acrobatics from the running back. Two of those highlights involve Solomon vaulting over defenders in what has become an almost trademark move of his: leaping over the opposition. And I have to reiterate this — the man threw a 23 yard bullet on Saturday! Make a habit of that, and we might start pushing people to get him on that Heisman shortlist! Well, maybe the long list. But still — he’s been pretty good.
Sports Editor Tommy Rothman: Alec Neumann of Penn men’s soccer is my pick for midseason MVP. The star forward and two-time second team All-Ivy selection has bounced back in a major way after a subpar junior campaign, and is off to an incredible start to his final year in the Red and Blue.
Neumann has scored seven goals in the team’s first 10 games, good for first in the Ivy League, and his 0.7 goals-per-game rank 16th in the nation. He sports a strong .269 shooting percentage and a .500 shots-on-goal percentage. With 15 career goals coming into the season, Neumann could nearly double his previous total by the time he’s played his last game for Penn.
Neumann is also the author of what is easily, to date, the most dominant performance by a Penn athlete this season. Against Drexel, the captain had a hat trick — in the first half alone.
The Quakers need to step it up and improve on their 1-2-0 record in Ivy play for Neumann’s dominant play to end up as more than a footnote in another disappointing season, but he’s definitely the MVP for Penn Athletics at this point in the fall season. The team’s modest 3-3-5 record would look a whole lot worse without Neumann.