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WSoccer_Recap_Nwokedi

Senior center back Camillia Nwokedi was a big reason why the Quakers were able to hold an explosive NC State offense to just one goal.

Credit: Varun Sudunagunta

In the world of competitive sports, there are games in which the stat sheet does not adequately do justice to actual events that transpired. 

Exhibit A: Penn women’s soccer 1-0 loss to No. 13 North Carolina State on Friday.

On paper, it appears as though the Quakers (2-1-0) were thoroughly overpowered by the Wolfpack (4-0-1), who came to a waterlogged Rhodes Field ranked 13th in the nation. The visitors fired off 16 shots, six of which were on goal, forcing junior keeper Kitty Qu to make five saves — two more than she had in the first two games combined. Compare that to the four shots mustered by the Quakers, and the game looks like it had the makings of a blowout.

But in person, this game told a different story.

Penn's back line knew entering this game that the high-octane Wolfpack attack would be a step up from the level of play they saw in their first two contests. In the four games leading up to their bout with the Quakers, NC State averaged nearly 18 shots per game. And, on the scoring front, junior Tziarra King had already netted an impressive three goals.

That is not to say that the Quaker defense was not up to the challenge. For the first 182 minutes of play in the season, the back line did not concede a single goal. This impressive feat is due in large part to the formidable center back tandem, composed of senior Camillia Nwokedi and sophomore Chase Geffert — both of whom were unfazed by the Wolfpack coming in.

“Obviously you have to adjust to your competition a little bit, but we really maintain the way we play and just try to come out and play with the same consistency and effort that we do in every other game,” Nwokedi said.

“Specifically for this game we just tried to keep everything in front of us. We sort of sat in a little bit because we didn’t want them to play through us on the side,” Geffert added.

Unfortunately, only three minutes after kick-off, in the 183rd minute of the season, the Quakers conceded their first goal. The Wolfpack got behind the defense with an incisive cross from junior Krissi Schuster and a clean finish from Tziarra King put it away.

“We had a game plan, and that’s kind of out the door when you go down in the first three minutes,” coach Nicole Van Dyke said. “It’s like, if you’re gonna lose, you gotta go down fighting.”

That fight took a little while to kick in, however. The Red and Blue appeared to be rattled by the early goal, and had problems maintaining possession. Much of the first half was played in the Quakers half, with the Wolfpack firing off 10 shots and winning three corner kicks.

Halftime was a welcome opportunity for the Red and Blue to adjust their game plan and come out in the second half with a greater sense of confidence. And indeed, they capitalized on that opportunity.

“We said in the locker room, ‘Hey, whether we lose 1-0, we get the tying goal, get better this half.' And that’s what we did,” Van Dyke said.

The Quakers tinkered with their formation, placing great trust in the defense by transitioning to a three-in-the-back formation. This change allowed the Red and Blue to push the ball up the field more and put some pressure on the NC State defense.

In the 63rd minute, junior Kelsey Andrews hit a shot just wide of the net. Then, in the 65th minute, senior Sasha Stephens put a shot just over the crossbar. The Quakers found themselves knocking at the door, but could not find the back of the net, and the game ended 1-0.

“Sasha [Stephens] said it best: We hold our heads high today because everything we wanted out of today, we got. We had some good opportunities … and I think we walked off knowing that, ‘Wow, we were the better team that second half,'”  Van Dyke said.

So, while the record books may remember this game as a 1-0 loss for the Red and Blue, it was much more than that.

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