Penn men’s soccer is no stranger to hard-fought games.
Four of the Quakers’ first five matches this season have gone to overtime, with two of those ending in double overtime draws. Additionally, the team has played three straight games on the road, winning, losing, and tying one.
On Friday, the Red and Blue (2-1-2) will finish this road stretch with a matchup versus Marist in Poughkeepsie, NY. If the first few games are any indication, Penn will be tough to score on. The group has given up just four goals, notching three clean sheets in the process — more than it had all of last season.
A key figure in the Quakers’ defensive success has been center back Alex Touche. The sophomore has started every game and has not left the pitch in the team’s first five games. He credits the defense’s early success to the philosophy of first-year coach Brian Gill.
“This season, coach Gill came in with the mentality that we’re gonna have a defensive base, and so that’s gonna be our foundation that we’ll build on throughout the season,” Touche said. “So we’ve gotten that foundation now, and now we just have to keep it up and keep communicating.”
While Touche has been stellar on the back line thus far, he has also been great on the other end of the pitch. The 6-foot-4 London native has scored two game-winning goals for the Red and Blue, both off of headers in the overtime period. The first came in the season-opener against Monmouth, while the other sealed the victory at Marquette.
“[Those two game-winners] felt really nice, because the guys deserved it,” Touche said. “We put in a lot of work over the offseason, and then in those games, we were battling for 90 minutes. They were pretty similar games, and we just sort of needed a winning touch, and [junior midfielder] Brandon [Bartel] put in some really good balls.”
The Quakers have two more non-conference games before they begin their Ivy season with a matchup at Cornell on Sept. 29. This Friday’s game at Marist (1-3-1) will mark the first time the two sides have competed against one another since the Red and Blue beat the Red Foxes 4-0 in 2006.
Marist comes into this matchup having already played a tough non-conference schedule. The group beat Pacific and tied Fordham in a two-week span, both of which have been nationally ranked this season. Leading the way has been the midfield duo of sophomore Allen Gavilanes and junior Samad Bounthong, each of whom have a goal and at least one assist on the year.
These attacking midfielders battling against the Penn backline, which includes Touche, sophomore RC Williams, junior Casey Barone, and senior Erumuse Momoh, makes for a compelling matchup to watch on Friday.
The Quakers had just two non-conference wins all of last year. A third win for them this season would be a big step forward with Ivy play just right around the corner.
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