In a weekend that brought mixed results, one thing was clear: Coach Nicole Van Dyke may need to find a full-time job as a halftime motivational speaker.
Coming into the weekend, Penn women's soccer was riding high. The Quakers had won their previous three matches, were unbeaten in their previous five, and hadn’t given up a goal since Sept. 6. All three of those streaks ended on Friday against Hofstra, who beat the Red and Blue, 2-1. However, Penn bounced back two days later with a 2-1 win of its own against Temple.
On Friday, the Red and Blue (5-2-1) took on Hofstra (6-3). They went down early, giving up a goal in the 10th minute before allowing another in the 23rd.
Down 2-0 at halftime, Penn stepped up its defensive intensity. The team allowed just five second half shots after allowing 11 in the first. Junior defender Katharine Larson dribbled into the box, got fouled, and converted the ensuing penalty kick for her first career goal. However, the Quakers’ comeback effort was ultimately stymied.
On Sunday, the Red and Blue matched up against Philadelphia rival Temple (2-4-3). In the 34th minute, Temple forward Emma Wilkins converted a goal off a rebound. Again, the Quakers found themselves playing from behind.
In the first few minutes of the second half, Penn ramped up its aggressiveness. In their first time touching the ball in the final 45 minutes, the Red and Blue earned a corner, and the chances didn’t stop there. Within six minutes, they were on the board, as Larson scored her second goal of both the weekend and her career.
“I’ve been really fortunate to play with a bunch of players who have put me in good positions,” Larson said. "I’ve been playing a lot better with [forward Emily] Sands and [midfielder Allie] Schachter, so it’s been them setting me up.
Sands and Schachter were both credited with assists on Larson’s goal.
Just two minutes later, senior forward Emma Loving got in on the fun. Coming down the right wing, she cut the ball to her left foot, leaving a defender in her wake. She fired a shot from just inside the box, and it curved its way into the bottom-left corner of the net.
“[Allie] Schachter saw a window open and found the pass that we’d been looking for for a while. I drove in, saw that [the defender] was letting me take it onto my left, saw the shot, and took it,” Loving said.
In the first halves of the two games, the Quakers were outscored by a combined three goals. In the second halves, though, they outscored Hofstra and Temple by three. They attacked with more purpose, created more chances in the final third rather than relying on long balls, and were more organized.
“I wish I could [attribute] it to some magical words of wisdom, but I think [the players] do a great job at halftime of figuring out what we need,” Van Dyke said. “The reality is, I think it took some fresh legs to get us into the game tonight.”
After the two games, there is plenty for Penn to build on. Hofstra, which made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year, was a tough opponent and a top-50 team in the country, and the Quakers had the chances necessary to tie them. In the second half of the Temple game, Penn was creating chance after chance.
Ancient Eight play begins next Saturday at Harvard, and Penn will need to put its best foot forward to find success. If the Red and Blue play like they did in these second halves, the Ivy League will need to watch out.