Twelve minutes into the 2016 season.
That’s all it took for Maryland to send two quick goals past Penn women's soccer's then-senior starting goalkeeper Carrie Crook before then-freshman Kitty Qu got her break — and never looked back.
Now a junior, Qu has been a brick wall in goal for the Quakers (2-1-0) ever since that day over two years ago, starting in every game the team has played while garnering conference-wide awards and attention from across the country.
Giving up only 18 goals in 33 total games played, the California native averages just under one goal allowed every other game. Additionally, Qu topped the Ivy League in save percentage last season at 0.890, which was good for seventh among all NCAA Division I goalies and second all-time in the program’s history.
The impressive stats behind her certainly help, but that’s not what Qu concentrates on.
“I actually didn’t know that until the end of the season,” she said. “It gives you confidence, but it’s not something you really think about, because you want to focus on the team.”
While Qu has been the starting goalie for a few seasons, she is constantly motivated to play at her best by her backups, senior Kiera Towell and sophomore Ashley Gabor.
“She’s being pushed by two great goalkeepers,” Van Dyke said. “Kira and Ashley can play on a lot of different teams in the country, but they choose to be here at Penn, and every day they make our forwards better and they make Kitty better.”
While Qu was looking at colleges for soccer, she fell in love with Penn and the program. She abruptly cut short her prospective visits just after her trip to Philadelphia, certain she had found the perfect match.
“She came out to Penn and she was originally scheduled to go to Columbia after she met with us, but she called me that night after her visit and said, ‘I’m not going to Columbia. I want to come to Penn,’” Van Dyke recalled.
It was not just the quality of the program that attracted Qu, but the spirit of the team and how close everyone was with each other.
“The camaraderie is one of the things that stands out a lot to me,” she said. “I live with basically my entire class, and soccer is fun, but it’s even more fun when you’re doing it with your best friends.”
If there’s one thing about Qu that has changed since her time as a freshman, it’s her will to be a leader on and off the field.
As one of the team’s youngest members a few years ago, it was difficult to have the commanding presence she has today. As she has aged, though, Qu has stepped into more of a powerful role on the team.
“Where I’m the most proud is her leadership skills; she’s not a natural, outspoken person,” Van Dyke said. “But we had a conversation in the spring where she said, ‘Help me with those leadership moments if I don’t recognize them,’ and we’ve done that.”
A reliable force between the goalposts, Kitty Qu has only changed Penn women’s soccer for the better since her arrival on campus two years ago. Many would have faltered after being thrown into the spotlight right away, but for Qu, it was a sign of the greatness to come.