After Harvard cancelled the rest of their men’s soccer season, the Ivy League standings flew wide open. With the Quakers, Dartmouth and Columbia all separated by just one standings point, the conference title — and a NCAA Tournament berth — were both suddenly up for grabs.
With the stage set, the Red and Blue made the short trip to Princeton for a matchup with the Tigers. Needing a win to have a shot of winning the Ancient Eight title outright, Penn and Princeton played to an exciting whirlwind of a draw, 2-2.
The Red and Blue found themselves down early, conceding a goal to the Tigers (7-7-2, 1-3-2 Ivy) off a corner kick in the game’s first five minutes.
Immediately, the Quakers (5-5-6, 3-2-1) worked to shift momentum in their favor, culminating in a goal for Matt Poplawski from a Joe Swenson corner kick in the 14th minute.
Despite the game’s magnitude, Penn coach Rudy Fuller believes his team treated the contest like any other throughout the season.
“All season we have done a great job of focusing on the game at hand and only focusing on what we can control,” Fuller said. “Despite all the ups and downs and recent distractions, this group has done a good job of just focusing on what is in front of us.”
The second half was when the action heated up, with both teams squandering numerous goal-scoring opportunities. Finally, however, it was Princeton that broke though on a beautifully placed shot in lower left corner past Penn goalkeeper Etan Mabourakh, putting the Tigers up, 2-1.
Once again, the Red and Blue responded immediately, as Alec Neumann cleaned up a rebound after a junior captain Sam Wancowicz shot in the 67th minute.
The Quakers seemed to take the lead in the games final 20 minutes on two separate occasions, but goals were called back — seemingly correctly — for offsides. And as the two overtimes proceeded, and the back-and-forth play ramped up, nobody found a way to break through again.
However for the Red and Blue, the ability to fight back after conceding goals has been a huge part of their success this season, and it was necessary tonight to force overtime.
“Two of their core values are being gritty and resilient and they continue to live up to those values,” Fuller said. “With everything that was riding on this game, it would have been very easy to put their heads down. But this group just doesn’t quit. And tonight was a perfect example of that.”
With one final game to play against Columbia on Wednesday, the Quakers are still in the running for a share of the Ancient Eight title. They would need a win over Columbia and a loss by Dartmouth to Brown next Saturday to secure the share. However, for now, Penn is focused on the only thing they have focused on all season, and that is what they can control.
A win over Columbia this week is certainly something they can control. Whether or not that translate into an Ivy title will remain uncertain until next weekend.
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