It was a big summer for soccer, and not just because of the 2018 World Cup.
Penn men’s soccer has been preparing all summer long for a new season. The Quakers will open their year at home on Rhodes Field, attempting to avenge last year’s 2-0 loss to Monmouth (0-2) as the sun sets over Philadelphia.
The team has been in pre-season since mid-August, but most members have been training individually since the summer began. NCAA rules prevent Penn athletes from practicing as a team, but this rule doesn’t apply to individuals wanting to compete on a club team separate from the school. Sixteen players from Penn soccer played on club teams all summer long working to improve their individual games. Over the past couple weeks, the team has been trying to combine their skills to mesh as a group, with ten freshmen and a junior transfer from Lafayette joining the squad.
On the new talent, first-year head coach Brian Gill stated that "we have a lot of new faces, so it feels like we’re new, we’re trying to do new things.” He added that, “I don’t think what we want to try to be as a program or who we want to try to be as a program has changed much at all.”
The four captains for the season are fifth-year Joe Swenson, seniors Gavin Barger and Jerel Blades, and junior Brandon Bartel.
Of his new leadership group, Gill said, “They’re ambitious, they’re ready to go, I think they’re excited about the season, they want to get into new challenges themselves. As a coaching staff, we’re going to rely heavily on those guys leading this group on the field.”
In the past four years, Penn has failed to finish in the top half of the Ivy League. Last season, the Quakers fell down to seventh. However, all but two starters will be returning.
With coaching adjustments and new captains, the team hopes to use its experience to grow the program.
Last year’s match against Monmouth went the wrong way for the Quakers in a two-goal shutout, but they hope to avenge their loss.
“They gave us trouble last year," Swenson said. "It was a good game, but they beat us, so a bit of redemption here home for our first game, I think it’s definitely a challenge but we’re excited for it.”
Berger echoed Swenson's sentiment.
“Challenge-wise for us, I think it’s just going to be a new test, beating up on someone else besides ourselves for the past two and a half weeks, so it’s going to be a very high intensity game. They’re going to be looking to get their first win.”
The Quakers will look to do the same on Friday night.
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