Make it two out of two on the weekend for Penn women’s soccer.
On Friday, the Quakers visited Bucknell and emerged with a solid 2-0 victory before returning home to Rhodes Field for a 4-0 win over Loyola (Md.).
Senior goalkeeper Kitty Qu made five saves in the first game en route to her third shutout of the season, but most eyes were on senior forward Emily Sands, whose two goals earned Penn (4-1-1) the win. Her first score was a well-hit half-volley from 25 yards, while her second came after some intricate play in the midfield by the Quakers.
The Quakers’ game against the Bison (2-6) was only their second road game of the season, the first being a 5-1 loss to Stanford. Coach Nicole Van Dyke believes her team has stepped up its defensive game since that loss.
“We grew a lot from that game, defending against some of the top players in the country,” she said. “We’ve become more comfortable holding people accountable and giving quick and specific directions. Now we’re just continuing to make sure that defensively we’re good in all the thirds, not just at the back, but middle and up top, too.”
On Sunday, the Red and Blue returned to Rhodes Field to host Loyola (2-6). The defense more than held its ground, earning a fourth shutout on the season, but the Quakers also excelled on the other end of the field.
At the 12-minute mark, a Penn free kick was lofted into the box by freshman defender Peyton Raun, which was fumbled by Loyola goalkeeper Lily Andres under pressure. Junior forward Paige Howard was first to react, opening the scoring with a simple tap-in.
That goal opened the floodgates for the Red and Blue, as they went on to score three goals in the next 10 minutes. The first came off a miscue in the midfield by a Loyola player. With the ball at her feet way outside the box, Sands took a shot that clipped the upright and bounced off the keeper into the net.
“[Senior midfielder] Kelsey [Andrews] played me the ball, and I just picked my head up, saw [the Loyola keeper] off the line, and I just thought I’d try it. It just came [to me],” Sands said.
Sands then turned provider for Penn’s third goal, passing to Andrews, whose long-range bouncing effort trickled past the keeper.
Having led the team last season with eight goals, Sands already has four just six games into this season.
“We have so much talent, and we’re just trying to figure out ways to make it work in practice,” she said. “We didn’t really have a lot of training days before our first trip, so just getting back into training and figuring out what relationships work [is helpful].”
In the 22nd minute on yet another free kick attempt, junior midfielder Breukelen Woodard saw her towering header saved, but she was there to tap in the rebound for another goal.
With her team holding a sizable lead, Van Dyke opted to rotate her squad and give some much-needed game time to the younger players on the team. A total of 24 players got in the action, and each played at least 25 minutes.
Even with a complete on-pitch overhaul, however, Penn’s reserves did not skip a beat. Throughout the rest of the game, they continued to pressure the Greyhounds every time they had the ball in their backfield, limiting them to just two shots.
“We take pride in shutouts,” Van Dyke said. "That was the goal of the second group, and they did a good job. I think it was a valuable learning experience for everyone playing.”
Throughout the two wins, Van Dyke saw several improvements from her team.
“We realized we weren’t doing a good enough job on second balls,” she said. “We were winning a lot of the first [balls], but we need to make sure we’re a team that hunts down second balls. So we focused on making sure that we connected our first pass in transition from defense to offense, and I thought we did better at that.”
Penn will have a doubleheader at home next weekend, taking on Hofstra and Temple. Those will be the last nonconference games for the Quakers before Ivy League play kicks off.