With its fourth consecutive shutout and seventh of the year, Penn women’s soccer is putting the rest of the Ivy League on notice.
In its 2-0 victory, Penn held Cornell to just three shots on goal with the Big Red struggling to break down an organized Quakers' defense that has now kept a clean sheet for more than 360 minutes.
Led by junior goalie Kitty Qu, who earned her program-high 16th career solo shutout, the Red and Blue (7-1-1, 1-0-1 Ivy) stymied each attacking venture from Cornell (1-7-1, 0-2 Ivy), who dropped their seventh game in eight tries. Not only did the Quaker defense continue to play at a high level, but the offense also saw a return to form after last week’s scoreless draw with Harvard.
Penn started strong and controlled the run of play throughout the game. Cornell’s senior goalie Meghan Kennedy, who had eight saves on the day, was forced into action multiple times in the first half, but managed to keep the ball out of her own goal for a 0-0 halftime score.
“I think we could’ve scored a few in the first [half]," coach Nicole Van Dyke said. “We came out with a ton of energy and tried to get in behind Cornell.”
Nearly 15 minutes into the second period, however, junior midfielder Emily Sands broke the deadlock with a deft flick into Cornell’s net. Junior forward Emma Loving made a strong run down the right side before finding Sands with a low cross from the touchline.
“I knew [Loving] was gonna beat her girl, so I just focused on getting there and getting a touch on it,” Sands said.
After the opening score, Penn continued to maintain possession, forcing the Big Red to play kickball, launching long passes from their defensive third only to be corralled by the Quaker defenders.
The Red and Blue’s consistent pressure and ball movement wore Cornell down as the game progressed, and the effort came to fruition in the 82nd minute, when senior midfielder Allie Trzaska sealed the win with a strong header. Trzaska rose high above her defenders to meet the long, arcing pass from sophomore left back Jadyn Wilensky before firing the ball into the back of the net to put Penn up 2-0.
Both of the Penn's goals came off of crosses from wide areas, a region of the field the Quakers looked to attack from the beginning.
“We really focused on getting in behind them and breaking them down,” Sands said. “[Getting the ball wide] was definitely a focus for today.”
While the scoreline and possession numbers might not reflect it, the Red and Blue recognize that getting a win in Ithaca was no easy effort.
“Anytime you get a result on the road against a team like Cornell, who bunkers and has a lot of numbers behind the ball, you should be pretty happy,” Van Dyke said. “It’s a tough conference and there’s only seven games, so every game is just as important as the last.”
This Penn team has good reason to be proud about its away victory, and its 7-1-1 start to the year is the best in program history. While Penn's presence on the scoresheet and stingy defense are certainly reassuring, a lot of soccer remains.
The Quakers will look to add to their winning ways next week when they return home to face a Columbia team that is undefeated in Ivy League play.