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WSoccer_Stephens

Senior forward Sasha Stephens has already notched one goal in the first three games of the season, while putting a team-high four shots on goal thus far.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Ten goals in 16 games. 

Those numbers paint the picture of how much Penn women’s soccer struggled to find the back of the net last season, resulting in a pedestrian 5-8-3 record and a 5th-place finish in the Ivy League. 

But this year is different — or at least seems different — so far. 

The Red and Blue have already tallied six goals through three games. On pace to score 32 goals this season, the Quakers (2-1-0) look primed to shatter their previous amount from last season. 

“The players are pushing the level, increasing the competitiveness, the determination, the resilience. From that, I think we’re in a great place,” coach Nicole Van Dyke said. “Where we finish in the spring is where we want to start off and people got better this summer. It’s putting it all together.” 

Through three games so far, Penn has played a new brand of soccer. This year is Van Dyke’s first year with a lineup comprised entirely of players she recruited. She believes the combination of new players and returning leadership gives this Penn squad the unique opportunity to try new systems and play multiple styles on the pitch.

“The [Penn] team culture is unmatched,” senior forward Sasha Stephens said. “I don’t think any other team can match the way we get along with each other on the field. We have excellent chemistry on the field, and that’s all conducive to finding great success.” 

The Quakers' early season slate has been highlighted by junior goalkeeper Kitty Qu. Qu now has two shutouts through three games with eight saves on the season, continuing her excellent play from last season.

The only major concern for the Red and Blue thus far has been slow starts to games. Penn has zero first half goals compared to six second half goals scored. Additionally, the Quakers have yet to concede a goal in the second half.

“We want to come out a little bit faster,” Van Dyke said. “If that can be the fifth gear in the second [half], and we can start the game hot, that’s what we’re looking to do.”

The next step for Penn will be to continue to improve on this start each and every week in preparation for Ivy League play. 

“Every year we hope [for] an Ivy League championship, and that’s the only place I see us [going],” Stephens said. “We can just strap in, hold on, and see how we handle the season.”

The last time the Quakers hoisted the Ivy League trophy was in 2010. 

However, with more reliable scoring and a solid defense anchored by one of the nations best goalies, this could be the year Penn breaks their championship dry spell.

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