What a heartbreaking way to go out.
After two consecutive losses, Penn women’s soccer returned to Rhodes Field looking to finish the season on a high note, as the Quakers hosted Princeton for their final game. However, the Tigers managed to find a goal late in the first half and contained the Quakers’ effort to equalize, ultimately coming out on top by a score of 1-0.
The tone for the game was set from the opening whistle, as both teams exchanged possession and succeeded in transitioning into attack. In the first 20 minutes of the match, senior forward Emma Loving gave the Orange and Black defense a difficult time with two shots from the right side of the field.
After those opening opportunities, the rest of the half went by without many great opportunities and an even distribution of the ball between the teams. The match seemed destined to enter halftime scoreless.
But the Tigers (7-6-3, 3-3-1 Ivy) were not done. With only 31 seconds remaining, Courtney O’Brien controlled the ball in the offensive half and passed it to fellow senior forward Abby Givens, who took a shot from the penalty box and gave Penn goalie Kitty Qu no chance to save it.
“It’s hard because we haven’t had the same lineup in one game this year, but ultimately you still need to score,” coach Nicole Van Dyke said. “The girls always come out and play hard. We had some good chances, but they were able to find a goal.”
Despite that, the Red and Blue (8-7-1, 2-5) were focused on making the game a memorable one for its eight graduating seniors — Loving, Qu, Abby Reed, Emily Sands, Laura Hamilton, Kelsey Andrews, Megan Lloyd and Ann Manella. Penn came back into the second half more alert and dominated possession of the ball. About 15 minutes into the period, Sands found space between the defenders and attempted a long-distance shot, forcing an impressive save by Princeton goalkeeper Natalie Grossi, who tipped it over the bar.
In the final 10 minutes, Princeton almost extended its lead when the ball rattled the goalpost and bounced back into the field, giving junior midfielder Olivia Kane an open look, but the shot was saved by Qu. The Quakers responded right after, with three consecutive chances by freshman forwards Sizzy Lawton and Ella Wright, all of which were stopped by Grossi.
The Red and Blue only managed to win one game this season when their opponents scored first, falling six other times. The difficulty to recover from an early deficit also helps explain the Red and Blue’s disappointing record in the League, especially when compared to last year’s 5-1-1 result.
“We had some inconsistencies this year, but our freshman class did a tremendous job. As they get older, they’ll also become better leaders,” Van Dyke said, “We make sure to celebrate the small victories along the way, and maybe they didn’t result in big wins, but we had many positive things and we’ll continue to build on those.”
Van Dyke also commented about the importance of the seniors to this team and how they achieved their main goal as a group — to make an impact on the program.
“[The senior class was] exceptional. They definitely changed this program and left it better than when they got here. They were a very technical group, and they changed the way we play,” Van Dyke said. “They won an Ivy League title, and that’s not easy to do because no other team had done that in the last few years but Princeton and Harvard. That’s ultimately the goal, and they deserved it.”
The Quakers will look to build and improve during the offseason, hoping to return more prepared and ready to be a contender in the Ancient Eight.