After hopping over Brown in the Ivy League rankings this past weekend in a 2-1 victory, Penn men’s soccer will try to maintain its form for their upcoming match against Princeton.
The Quakers (5-5-5, 3-2 Ivy) hope to have a strong finish in the remaining two games of the conference season. After starting with a difficult win against Cornell, Penn then faced even tougher losses against Columbia and Dartmouth in the weeks after. The team showed their character and produced convincing results against Yale — a three goal win — and, most recently, Brown during Homecoming weekend.
Although their non-conference record (2-3-5) is lackluster, the Red and Blue are keeping a stronghold at fourth place on the Ivy League table as of now, and this contest against their historic rivals can become another crucial game to propel themselves up the standings even further.
Fortunately for Penn, Princeton (7-7-1, 1-3-1) is currently having a disappointing season, especially in Ivy play, and is seen as the underdog in this matchup due to poor form. Even though the Tigers have dominated this fixture, winning six times in the last nine years, the Quakers are hoping to turn around this stat in a few days and certainly have the chance to.
At the moment, Princeton shares sixth place with Yale in the league table. They have drawn Dartmouth, won just a single matchup — against last place Cornell — and lost against every other team in the conference so far. The rivalry should produce a passionate and heated match as expected, and Penn is expecting to come out with a result.
“The biggest tactical challenge is that Princeton is unpredictable with their play style and formations,” Penn coach Rudy Fuller said. “Even though we are comfortable with their personnel, we are not very sure about how they will approach us, but we are ready for whatever they do.”
While their overall record has been far from perfect, the Quakers have also not statistically appeared strong. Opponents have outscored them 24-23, even though Penn has created numerous chances and outshot other teams 187-174.
“I think that the team has improved defensively since the start of the season,” Fuller said, “and hopefully they continue improving this weekend. On the flipside, the relationships in the offense between the players has also been forming.
“I’m proud that the team is always focusing on how to win the next game. Sometimes, players can get carried away with standings and stats, but I value that the team tries to look mainly on their next game.”
A strong suit for the team though has been individual brilliance. Senior Alec Neumann has provided eight goals in 14 appearances and is the team’s top scorer, while freshman Dami Omitaomu scored a match-winning brace in their last match against Brown.
“Helping the team win and playing great together has let my confidence grow during any match,” said Omitaomu, who also won Ivy League Rookie of the Week after his heroics. “I am becoming more comfortable on the field and our growing chemistry has let me express myself more in play.”
Fuller even commented that he enjoys watching what he called “a dangerous partnership” that has formed between Neumann and Omitaomu.
Neumann deserves his own praise, especially after assisting Omitaomu with a lobbed pass against Brown last game. He not only provides the team with his reliable finishing ability but also with his ability in buildup play. Fuller praised the offense’s improved chemistry, and it has been growing to be an efficient force with Neumann on the field.
Playing an away game at Princeton is not an easy task, but for the Quakers, they should expect to take advantage of their own momentum and the Tiger’s lackluster form.