Soccer is all about avoiding mental lapses – commit one, and a match can change within seconds.
The stakes couldn't be higher for Penn men's soccer at this point in its season, with five matches left in the Ivy League to turn a disappointing campaign into a successful one.
Penn is tasked with facing Dartmouth at Rhodes Field on Saturday night. The match will be critical for momentum going forward, as the Quakers venture into the second half of their campaign.
The Big Green (7-2-1, 1-0-1 Ivy) are unbeaten in their last eight fixtures between conference and non-conference play, and they had seven consecutive wins before recently drawing against Yale.
The Quakers (2-7-1, 0-1-1) cannot afford to allow any errors against Dartmouth, who will surely capitalize on anything the home team gives them.
“At the end of the day, a few mistakes can cost you games,” senior attacking midfielder Joe Swenson said.
The Quakers have experienced this lesson firsthand in their Ivy League campaign thus far. Despite having stretches of quality play against Cornell and Columbia, the Quakers saw these matches turn on their heads after momentary lapses.
“Against Cornell and Delaware before that, we were really focused. When we had to go on the road against a great team in Columbia, we lost sight in what we had to do,” junior full-back Erumuse Momoh said.
The first halves of both of these games saw Penn play with confidence and energy; the second halves saw them yield to offensive pressure from the opposition, resulting in a draw against the Big Red and a 3-0 loss to the Lions.
“We knew that we had to be more confident coming out. We kept [Columbia] away from us — it was 0-0 at halftime. We have to keep up that confidence, communication, and trust in each other,” Momoh added.
In the face of these lapses, the squad can still challenge for a successful campaign. The way in which the Ivy League plays out is unpredictable, and most of the games still have yet to be played.
Saturday's fixture with Dartmouth, though favoring the visitors, could still go either way depending on how the two teams come out.
Containing pressure early on and capitalizing on any opportunities will be essential for Penn’s success, as the in-form Dartmouth side will look to defend their 2016 Ivy League championship.
“We have to come out and play our game. Everyone is excited for an Ivy League game back at home, and I see this as a great opportunity for everyone to bounce back,” Swenson said.
Focus will be key for the resilient Quakers side, who are looking forward to the challenge.