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In their freshman seasons, Emily Sands and Emma Loving led the team in assists and goals respectively. 

Credit: Ananya Chandra , Alex Fisher

It's often tough for athletes to follow up an impressive performance when expectations are heightened.

But given what Penn women's soccer's sophomore attacking duo of Emily Sands and Emma Loving has accomplished, it’s hard to see these two Quakers faltering anytime soon.

Both Loving and Sands enjoyed plenty of success during their rookie seasons. Loving scored a team-high six goals, three of which were game-winners, while Sands posted team-bests with six assists and 14 points, and finished second with four goals — tying with junior forward Sasha Stephens in all three categories.

For Loving, just getting to this year’s preseason has been a bit of a feat in and of itself. The Doylestown, Pa. native underwent toe surgery in May and required a large portion of the next two months to recover.

“It’s been a bit of a long process,” Loving said. “I was not walking for the first week or so, and after that I was able to do light activity, but I didn’t get cleared to fully run until August 1st.”

Evidently, Loving's recovery has progressed. The forward most recently tallied forty minutes in the Red and Blue’s (0-2-2) 1-1 draw versus UC Riverside (2-2-2) last Sunday.

For some collegiate athletes, an offseason challenge is finding ways to keep a competitive rhythm. Sands kept her competitive instincts sharp by playing for her old club team over the summer.

“My old club team has a women’s team which is semi pro in is in a league called the Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPSL),” the West Chester, Pa. resident said. “Our team actually won our division and made it to regionals, but we didn’t have enough people able to go so we had to forfeit.”

One would expect that with a year of collegiate experience under their belts, preparing for this season would be a little easier for Loving and Sands. But Sands was keen to praise her new teammates for bringing an energy level that has resulted in more intense preseason training.

“The freshman this year have a lot of talent,” the attacking midfielder said. “They’re just very get down to business, work hard, get out. I am very competitive and so are they, so it’s helped raise the level of the team.”

For the Penn sophomores, the arrival of this freshman class signifies their new role as leaders. Loving credits being around her teammates for fostering inspiration in her training.

“The biggest challenge is keeping yourself focused over the summer when you’re not constantly with the team,” Loving said. “When you’re with the team, you have each other to motivate yourself; you always have that person next to you trying to beat you in the fitness test.”

When asked, both players declared that the team’s goal was to qualify for the NCAA tournament they missed out on last season. As far as individual objectives are concerned, the duo is seeking to improve as players, meaning more goals, more assists, and better performances than they had in their impressive rookie seasons.

If the duo takes another step forward, perhaps so will the squad.