Although Penn men's soccer led twice on Monday night against Loyola Maryland, the teams ultimately compromised for the draw.
Coming off of a heartbreaking loss against Penn State, the Red and Blue (2-1-1) were re-energized, ready to continue a solid start to their season. Having won two non-conference games prior to their contest against the Nittany Lions, they were eager for a win against a formidable Loyola Maryland (1-2-1) team.
The match began slowly, with both sides tallying one shot in the first 10 minutes. However, Penn began to gain momentum, nearly scoring the opening goal in the 13th minute. An inside shot was saved by a strong glove from the Greyhound goalkeeper Chase Vosvick. This initial offensive spark prompted a strong run for the Red and Blue, allowing them to play in the upper half and exert constant pressure on the Loyola defense. However, a counterattack and close chance in the 22nd minute turned the momentum over to the Greyhounds.
As Loyola continued to gain rhythm, the team's long balls consistently penetrated the Penn box, forcing goalkeeper Nick Christoffersen to make a few sliding saves. Loyola continued to increase the intensity on-ball, and started to dominate the possession.
Opening the second half, the Penn team re-entered the field upbeat. A long ball to the left side was sent to graduate student Joey Bhangdia, who bent the ball around the Loyola goalkeeper to put the Quakers up 1-0, tallying Bhangdia’s third goal of the season.
“We were trying to be a little more aggressive than we were against Penn State, [trying] to carry some more meaningful possession in the attacking half. In fact, to be fair, I felt that we did that…I did feel that we were building our way into the game," coach Brian Gill said.
The Greyhounds quickly struck back, however. Clever play in the box forced Christoffersen to attempt a sliding save, fouling a Loyola player. The resulting penalty kick was confidently put into the back of the net by the Greyhounds’ junior forward Daniel Tshiani, tying the game at 1-1 apiece.
As the second half continued to progress, the Quakers made pressing charges against the Greyhound goal. The pressure from Penn’s constant attacking was relieved once again in the 71st minute.
A long pass from the back found sophomore Michael Hewes, who dribbled the ball into the penalty box and passed it to freshman forward Charlie Gaffney for an easy tap in, putting the Quakers up 2-1.
However, similar to the previous goal, Loyola was quick to equalize. A incisive cross into the box saw the junior defender Matthew Lala head the ball into the corner, overwhelming Christoffersen to tie the game at 2-2.
“We showed some good resiliency to get back into the lead and keep creating chances. That’s all we can ask," Gill said. "Sometimes as a coaching staff, we have to be a little bit more patient with new players to come along and find their best form, and also the players have to recognize some urgency moments, too."
As the game approached the 90th minute, it was clear that these two sides could not be separated. Despite some valiant, last-minute efforts by Penn, the game was sent to overtime.
The first 10-minute half of extra time was dominated by the Quakers, who cleaned up their passing and constantly created chances. They nearly found the net but were denied by the crossbar.
“One of the biggest things this season is to continue to work on our identity and just scoping out the main pieces of the team and the supporting pieces," Bhangdia said. "We need to capitalize off of more chances and create more chances. The middle third has been a big thing for us and winning that."
Overall, despite playing well and creating chances, Gill wants to see the team continue to improve.
“I think through the course of the season, we are going to have to teach ourselves some lessons. Sometimes those lessons aren’t fun to learn, and in order to really handle a lead and the urgency it takes to handle a lead, every once in a while, you have to lose the lead," Gill said. "We’ve tested that sometimes this year and that’s been a little bit of a challenge for our group, but I think the overall process of winning games and being successful at this level takes time."
The Quakers will host Mount St. Mary’s (Md.) this Friday at 7pm, where they will try to extend their strong start to the season at Rhodes Field.
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