Penn women’s soccer has been through eight different recruiting classes and more than 2,500 days of hard work since its last Ivy League championship.
But the Quakers have been stellar so far this season, and this weekend marks the start of a new conference campaign.
On Saturday, Penn starts its quest for an Ivy League championship against Harvard. Currently on a four-game win streak, the Red and Blue (6-1) are playing their best soccer in years.
“The winning has definitely helped spike our confidence going to Ivy’s this Saturday,” senior midfielder Allie Trzaska said. “We’re still not going to become complacent. We’re going to keep working this week in practice to build up that confidence even more.”
On the other side of the ball, Harvard (3-4) is fresh off a 2-0 win of its own against fellow Boston team Northeastern. Harvard’s play thus far has been highlighted by senior midfielder Leah Mohammadi, who has scored four of the Crimson’s nine goals this season.
Penn’s defense will be a major roadblock for Mohammadi and the Harvard offense. Junior goalie Kitty Qu has five shutouts in seven starts thanks to both excellent goalkeeping and great defensive team efforts.
“I feel like people are showcasing themselves at different moments,” coach Nicole Van Dyke said. “We have a lot of talented players, and we’re still improving. I think it’s always ever-evolving. We can always just continue to get better.”
The key to success for Penn this season has been its ability to get quality shots on net. Last season, a year in which the Quakers finished fifth in the Ivy League, Penn scored a total of 10 goals. This year's team has already netted 15.
Additionally, the Quakers have worked as one cohesive unit. Six different players have scored through seven games, showcasing the team's depth and improved team chemistry from previous seasons.
“I think everyone [has contributed to the goal spike]. You look at how many different players we have at different moments,” Van Dyke said.
The main facilitator in the rise in goal production has been Trzaska, who leads the team with five assists on the season.
“Anytime your midfielders are doing what they're supposed to do, especially from an attacking front, it's great,” Van Dyke said. “Just her ability to be precise in the final third — she can take on players, she can strike a ball, she can serve it. She’s definitely a playmaking attacking midfielder.”
Trzaska has developed as a player in her time at Penn. When she started, Trzaska played deeper in a more defensive role. Through the years, she has developed both as a player and a leader — Trzaska is now a captain of the team, tasked with setting the example for her teammates.
“I try not to think about [assists] as different factors,” Trzaska said. “It’s awesome that I’m able to be in spots on the field that allows me to set up my teammates for goals.”
In order to start the Ivy League campaign with a win, the Quakers will need to continue their great offensive play, while continuing their dominating defensive performances.
Last season, the Quakers were able to go to Harvard and win on the road. They will look to do the same this Friday night at Rhodes Field.