Some say three's a crowd — Penn men’s soccer forward Matt Leigh wouldn’t.
Earning significantly more minutes this season than he did last year, the sophomore was one of three forwards in 2019 who saw consistent playing time. In his freshman season, he came off the bench in every game, totaling 254 minutes. This year, the sophomore nearly doubled his minutes, clocking in 504.
Playing alongside Leigh at forward were sophomore Ben Stitz and junior Jake Kohlbrenner, who combined for one goal and seven assists this year. While Leigh hasn't filled up the stat sheet as much as Stitz and Kohlbrenner, he still remembers the defining moment of his freshman season, which was his first career goal against Delaware.
“I scored Oct. 28, which was [with] two weeks left in the season. I was happy the rest of the season; it definitely played a massive role in building confidence for me,” Leigh said.
This season, the Red and Blue's 13 goals came from six players. Junior Joey Bhangdia had six goals, meaning that other players often contributed in more ways than just sending the ball to the back of the net.
“For forwards in this system, even if I don’t leave a game with a goal or an assist, if I helped our team get into good territory, helped us win a bunch of throw-ins, or won us a bunch of corners, that’s the kind of stuff that the coaches are happy about and that I’m happy about,” Leigh said.
While Stitz and Kohlbrenner have been mainstays in the Quakers' starting lineup for the past two years, the three forwards are great friends who often work in conjunction in practice and games.
“They all do a really good job at different things in the game," coach Brian Gill said. "So trying to get them to understand how their different dynamics both are important to our team but also make each other better has been a really big push."
This season, coming into games as a sub, Leigh was able to use his speed to his advantage, but there are still intricacies of the game that he is working on.
“I’m continuing to work on my back to goal play. I’m a pretty good finisher, I’m pretty good with my run selection and stuff like that, but the hardest thing for me is when I get tough balls out of the back, being able to have it stick to my feet, and being able to help us get out and basically using my body to be physical,” Leigh said.
Leigh, who attended St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass., was in familiar territory when the Red and Blue faced off against Harvard in their last game of the season.
The group capped off its season by beating the Crimson by a score of 2-0. Leigh shined in the finale, as he tallied an assist on sophomore midfielder Anthony Rovito's goal at the end of the first half.
While Yale emerged as the winner of the Ivy League, the Quakers ended in second place with a conference record of 3-1-3. The strong finish to the season is a good sign for the future of Penn and Leigh as he enters his final two years with the Red and Blue.
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