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Credit: Linda Ting

As the fall sports season get into the swing of things, this weekend will be key for Penn Athletics. Here are the three biggest matchups — the games within the games — to keep an eye on. 

Field hockey's offense vs Monmouth and Villanova 

The Quakers will have two chances to get their first win of the year. Penn will first travel to New Jersey to face Monmouth, the team's first unranked opponent of 2019. Then on Sunday, the Quakers will have their home opener against local rival Villanova. 

Thus far this season, the Quakers have played No. 1 North Carolina and No. 10 Wake Forest, losing by a combined 8-0 to the Atlantic Coast Conferences powerhouses. The Red and Blue will need to find a spark on offense if they hope to come away from this weekend with a pair of wins. 

Sophomore forward Madison Jiranek is a player who can step up on offense this weekend. In the first two games of the season, the two-sport athlete has only recorded two shots, with a single shot on goal.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior goalkeeper Ava Rosati has played well although the scores don’t necessarily reflect it. Against the top-ranked Tar Heels, Rosati faced 18 shots on goal and put up a dozen saves, while she saved four of six shots against the Demon Deacons.

For a team still looking for its first goal of the year, it will take a combination of solid offensive against Monmouth and Villanova to come away with a pair of wins.

Credit: Eric Zeng Madison Jiranek.

Sprint football's new-look defense vs Army

How will the Quakers look to exact revenge after last season's 28-6 loss to Army? By giving coach Bill Wagner a victory in his final home opener with the team.

“Coach Wagner has done quite a lot for all of us and I think it is a huge motivating factor for us throughout the season," junior offensive lineman Dan Smith said. “For this to be his last home opener and last regular season game against Army, it is definitely in the forefront of all of our minds."

“It was a tough loss and has been a big part of what has fired us up over the course of the summer," he added. “We spent a lot of time watching film of that game and we are in a much better spot to come out on top this year."

The Red and Blue lost 16 players to graduation, including James Juliano, who lead the team last year with 45 tackles, and Angelo Matos, who had a team high four sacks. The additional losses of two-year captain Tom Console and defensive lineman Sam Smallzman leave the team thin on that side of the ball. 

Senior linebacker Jack Hennigan and sophomore defensive back Luca Curran will need to continue their success from last season if the Quakers want any chance beating a tough Black Knights team. 

After joining the team just last year, junior linebacker/safety Aaron Johnson is poised to have a breakout season. Across six games during his sophomore season, he totaled 27 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks for the Quakers. Last year against Army, Johnson posted a career-high eight tackles.

The Quakers' new defensive look will be put to the test this Friday, as they look to start Wagner's 50th and final season off on the right foot with a win at home. 

“This is the last season for Wags and this is really something we want to get done for him. This is the first step," Smith said.

Women’s soccer midfielder Breukelen Woodard vs opposing defenses

Women's soccer will be competing twice this weekend and looking to extend their winning streak to three games. On Friday, Penn will travel to nearby Bucknell to take on the Bison, and then on Sunday, the Quakers will host Loyola (Md.) at Rhodes Field. 

Last time out, the Quakers were able to come away with a 1-0 win against Mount St. Mary’s after junior midfielder Breukelen Woodard scored in the seventh minute of play. 

The South Carolina transfer has already scored twice thus far this season, good for half of the four team goals. If Woodard continues her shooting mentality, opposing defenses could find themselves down a goal, again. 

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