The Red and Blue continued their dominant display in the Ivy League by beating Yale 2-1 on the back of a scrappy last-minute winner by Emily Sands, who slotted in a rebound off a corner kick.
Penn women’s soccer (11-1-1, 4-0-1 Ivy) took charge of the game in the first half, as continued pressure from plays built by senior forward Sasha Stephens materialized into multiple chances that the Quakers were unable to convert. In the 14th minute, Stephens found space on a quick link-up with Sands and played in a cross to sophomore defender Katherine Larson. Larson hit her shot into the bottom corner, but the goal was disallowed as she was slightly offside.
In the 25th minute, Stephens found herself in space again after beating her defender and played a ball in to senior midfielder Allie Trzaska, who shot over the crossbar. Shortly after, around the 30th minute, Trzaska pounced on a wanting Stephens’ corner and headed the ball straight into the crossbar. Another critical chance came less than five minutes after, as Stephens took her first shot of the game and hit the woodwork with a formidable shot.
The Quakers ended the half with another big chance, as junior forward Emma Loving came on as a substitute and made an immediate impact on the game. Loving beat a defender and took an imposing shot which ricocheted off of a Yale defender towards goal. The keeper parried it away, and the ball was eventually cleared to bring an eventful first half to a close at 0-0.
Penn was unrelenting in its attack to start the second half. The Quakers’ pressure finally broke through the Bulldogs’ defense, as Trzaska found Stephens, who outmaneuvered two defenders to put a cross into the box. The Yale defense cleared the cross and the ball right into junior midfielder Megan Lloyd, who lobbed the ball back into the box and into the path of Sands. The center-forward pulled away from a defender, and found the bottom corner of the net for the seventh time this semester to give Penn a 1-0 lead.
“I think a position change from center-midfielder to center-forward has really helped me. I keep on finding myself in the right places in and around the box, and just doing that consistently has worked well this season,” Sands said.
Yale (7-6-1, 1-3-0 Ivy) clawed its way back into the game in the 65th minute. Junior goalkeeper Kitty Qu’s clearance of a corner was picked up by Yale junior midfielder Kristi Wharton, whose cross into the box found a taker who scored at the back post.
The Quakers ended their shutout streak of 733 minutes, and coach Nicole Van Dyke used this as a learning experience for the team.
“This is going to sound silly, but if you’re going to score on us, it has to be a very good goal. Today we gained the experience of responding to a team equalizing on us, and it was another opportunity for us to grow; one we haven’t had since Navy,” Van Dyke said.
After play resumed, Penn doubled down on its offensive strategy, and started pushing more into Yale’s half. With the added pressure came more chances, and two found the back of the net but were disallowed as they were offsides.
The second breakthrough came in the 81st minute. Stephens took a corner for Penn, and her cross found a taker in sophomore midfielder Breukelen Woodward, who sprinted in to hit a header that rebounded off the crossbar. Emily Sands, finding herself in the middle of a chaotically organized Yale defense, struck the ball with her right foot straight past the goalkeeper. This goal was Sands’ seventh match-winning goal of the season and eighth overall.
“I think we went out there and battled. We did what we needed to do; we do the small things well and our goal is to win the Ivy League and play NCAAs. We just have to keep on doing the small things right and not look too far ahead,” Sands said.
The Quakers’ defense held down the fort in the last 10 minutes, and Penn left New Haven with its undefeated away record intact. With Harvard falling to Princeton later in the day, Penn now has sole possession of first place in the Ivy League with just two weeks remaining.
Van Dyke echoed Sands’ affirmation of the team's values.
“We take responsibility and are very aware that you have to put in work day in and day out," Van Dyke said. “The team has done an exceptional job of doing that; I cannot comment enough about their character. They have a tremendous amount of belief in each other, and everyone has had their impact on this season in their own way. In the end, it produces these results as a team.”
The Quakers return home to Rhodes Field to take on Delaware State on Monday.