Three full games. It has been more than 290 minutes since Penn women's soccer last allowed a goal.
After a scoreless tie against Harvard this past weekend, Penn (6-1-1, 0-0-1 Ivy) is looking for its first win in Ivy League play. This weekend, the Quakers will get the opportunity on the road against Cornell (1-6-1, 0-1).
In Ivy League play, every game counts. Even with the Red and Blue’s best eight-game start in program history, they already may be in a must-win scenario if they want to meet their goals of winning the Ivy League and claiming a bid to the NCAA tournament.
Over the past seven seasons, the Ivy League champion has had a conference record of 5-1-1 or better. After their first Ivy match ended without getting all three points, the Quakers do not have much room for error heading into their next match against Cornell.
“Every game [is a must win],” coach Nicole Van Dyke said. “I think that’s why you finish that game and go, 'We wanted that.' Soccer can be a cruel sport. We are still very confident with the pattern that we’re on and we’re going to go to Cornell and expect to win.”
The key to the Quakers' success thus far has been their defense, but not for the reason one might think.
The Penn defense, under the direction of junior goalkeeper Kitty Qu, is probably the strongest aspect of the team. With just three goals allowed this season, the emphasis on defense has clearly paid dividends so far.
However, the defense's impact goes beyond simply stopping the opposition's attacking efforts. The organization in the back has allowed the team to take more chances in the attacking third, knowing that there is a wall of defenders ready to protect the net at the other end.
“We really do feel that we can play a little bit higher now. We can press a little bit harder,” Van Dyke said. “It’s going to provide us more opportunities. Now we can take a little more risk.”
Against Cornell, the Red and Blue will get their chance to put the ball in the back of the net for the first time in Ivy play. Cornell, winless in its last seven contests, has conceded 13 goals in just eight games played.
According to Van Dyke, the Penn midfielders will be the matchup to watch this weekend. Currently, senior Allie Trzaska leads the team with five assists and junior Kelsey Andrews paces the Quakers with four goals. Trzaska's distribution has been the offensive catalyst throughout the non-conference slate, and the Red and Blue will be leaning on her once again at Cornell.
“I think we have a lot of good players at the midfield,” Van Dyke said. “At any point, they all know what the task is. They all bring different attributes and great performances every week.”
On Saturday in Ithaca, N.Y., the Quakers will look to continue their shutout streak at the back, but they will also look to break through at the other end and pick up all three points against Cornell.
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