Is there a better way to go out?
With both Penn men’s soccer and Harvard struggling in the Ivy League, the game could have gone either way. But thanks to a goal in double overtime by sophomore defender Alex Touche, assisted by junior midfielder Brandon Bartel, the Quakers ended the season on a positive note, beating the Crimson 1-0.
The Crimson (3-13, 1-6 Ivy) started the game strong, frantically trying to find some space between Penn’s well-positioned defenders. However, none of their four shots were close enough to test senior goalie Scott Forbes. On the other hand, the Red and Blue (5-5-6, 2-4-1) failed to convert on attack, but still had the best chance of the first half, after a kick by Touche off a corner.
After the break, however, the Quakers had a more offensive approach, with five shots in the first 10 minutes – which forced Harvard goalkeeper Matt Freese to make impressive saves – and put a display of defensive power, holding the Crimson to only one shot in the half.
“I think [Coach Brian] Gill has set a great foundation defensively,” defender Alex Touche said. “And we also found a strong offense towards the end of the season.”
Nonetheless, Penn’s complete performance wasn’t enough to avoid another overtime – its 12th this season, adding up to 174 extra minutes played. With a speedy offense, they were incessantly looking for a goal, which came in the first minute of the second overtime. After a free kick, Brandon Bartel found Touche, who scored with a perfectly placed header and secured a win in the last game of the season.
“[Brandon and I] found a connection this season that hopefully we can keep going moving forwards, but overall it’s just a great way to send these seniors off,” Touche said.
The result served as a great send-off for six seniors: Forbes, Gavin Barger, Jerel Blades, Etan Mabourakh, Erumuse Momoh and Joe Swenson. The goalie even had his best season for Penn, with seven shutouts and a 82 percent save percentage, which ranks 19th nationally.
“I had a great team in front of me keeping the shutouts,” Forbes said. “They probably deserve more credit than I do.”
Although there is still work to be done before next season, the three wins in the last four games and good performances by the younger players create hope for a brighter future.
“I believe we took the program to a better place than we found it,” Forbes said. “You can’t underestimate this team, because I know these kids and how well they’re going to do next year."
The Quakers finish sixth in the Ivy League and will now look to improve during the offseason and achieve better results next year.