As the end of the season approaches, Penn men’s soccer has finally hit its stride.
Despite a strong performance by Delaware, Penn emerged victorious against the Blue Hens with a 2-1 win. The Quakers (4-4-6, 1-3-1 Ivy League) proved that their win against Brown this past Sunday, which was their first in nine games, wasn’t just a fluke.
The game began with Penn pressing forward aggressively on offense. Only eight minutes in, senior midfielder Joe Swenson had a close attempt on goal, placing the ball just outside the net.
The Quakers kept up their fast-paced play throughout the first half. After playing up on Delaware’s end for most of the first 45 minutes, sophomore forward Jake Kohlbrenner sent the ball sailing into the net in the 24th minute, scoring Penn’s first goal of the night.
By the end of the half, the Blue Hens (5-10-1) were able to match the Quakers’ two shots on goal. However, the Red and Blue pressed high on every Delaware touch, forcing turnovers and preventing further Blue Hen chances.
As the second half commenced, though, it was clear that the Blue Hens were back with a vengeance, shooting on goal three times in the first five minutes.
An early mistake by the Quakers cost them a penalty shot in the 47th minute. Delaware employed a surprising strategy by having senior goalie Blai Palmi take the shot, which he ripped into the upper right corner of the goal, tying the game at 1-1.
Both teams fought to maintain possession throughout the second half. After their initial goal, the Blue Hens added several more shots to the board.
Entering the last 20 minutes of the game, though, the Quakers proved that composure produces results. As sophomore midfielder Joey Bhangdia carried the ball up the field, he lofted a pass across the field to senior defender Erumuse Momoh. Momoh hit a low driven cross right in front of Delaware’s goal, allowing freshman forward Matt Leigh to put it past the keeper in the 73rd minute. Leigh’s goal, his first of the season, was the Quakers’ second of the night.
The Quakers’ strong defense and gritty offense helped them extend their winning streak to two games. Once plagued by scoreless draws and losses, Leigh believes they have progressed as a team.
“I think at the beginning of the season, we weren’t a team that wanted to compete enough and really work hard with each other,” Leigh said. “But I think now, especially as the season’s progressed, we’ve built a lot of chemistry with each other, and we all want to play and enjoy playing with each other.”
Furthermore, nearing the end of a season marked by strong defensive play, the Red and Blue have been working to improve their offensive game.
“I think the guys are starting to understand and trust what they’re doing,” coach Brian Gill said.
As they take on Princeton and Harvard in the upcoming weeks, the Quakers will hope to continue their winning streak.