After an early lead, a controversial goal, seven minutes of overtime, and over a dozen headers, Penn women’s soccer won its game against Rice, 2-1.
The Quakers (5-1-2) started off with a veteran crew of upperclassmen on the field against the Owls (7-2-1). The only freshman starting for the Red and Blue was forward Janae Stewart. She has played in the five most recent games of the season, assisting on two goals and scoring one of her own. Stewart earned the Quakers an early lead in this match, scoring her second goal of the season, unassisted in the third minute of the game.
“It was important to score early and take advantage of that early lead because [Rice is] a tough team,” Stewart said. “It was good to be competitive and in there, in the mix, early on.”
The goal was met with jubilation from Stewart and her teammates. However, the tone quickly shifted as they realized that just seconds before the goal, senior forward Abbey Duncan was injured. She had a serious limp and had to be helped off the field.
“Seeing her on the ground was really hard, but we all pick up each other,” Stewart said. “We kept the energy, kept the lead as we continued on. It was hard to take that fall, but we definitely recovered well from it.”
The Red and Blue were able to maintain their lead comfortably in the first half, illustrating their teamwork and skill through passing action. The ball was moving among the Quakers far more fluidly than among the Owls. Sophomore forward Ginger Fontenot and junior midfielder Sara Readinger were continually sending the ball to each other as well as other open players. Penn managed to get the ball into its opponent’s penalty box far more frequently than Rice.
However, the game was far from a blowout. The Red and Blue had five corner kick opportunities in the first half and were unable to clinch any of the points. Junior midfield/forward Sizzy Lawton also had a window of opportunity to score a goal in the 24th minute that was thwarted by the Owls’ defense. At the end of the first half, the match began to feel even more even. Rice brought the ball to Penn’s defense numerous times, nearly scoring twice.
In the second half, the Red and Blue continued their solid passing, while the Owls stepped up their game on the offensive front.
The Owls attempted two corner kicks. Sophomore goalkeeper Laurence Gladu easily thwarted the second, but the first kick came very close: Gladu fell to the ground while the ball was still in the penalty box. However, Lawton stepped up and was able to get the ball out of the danger zone swiftly.
In perhaps the most intense minute of the game, the Owls tried to score and junior Emily Pringle blocked the ball with her head, sending it sailing out of bounds. This move resulted in a corner kick in which every member of the Rice team, including the goalie, came to help at Penn’s penalty box. During the play, Rice scored and Gladu suffered a head injury.
The move was controversial, but ultimately, the Owls were awarded the point with just four minutes left on the clock. In this moment, the Quakers had to internalize that the lead that they held onto for the entire game was lost.
“Whenever you concede a goal late like that, it's always challenging,” head coach Casey Brown said. “But the girls just showed how resilient they are. It didn’t throw us off course. We were ready to go, we turned the page mentally.”
The score ended in a tie, sending the two teams into overtime. Senior forward Jackie Bruder said that she was mentally focused on passing the ball and staying composed as she got back onto the field.
“I was thinking, let’s just play our game,” Bruder said. “We're a very skillful team and I think that sometimes in those moments, you can get really frustrated. We did a really good job of just staying composed and calm in that moment.”
During overtime, the ball spent time on both sides of the field. In the seventh minute of overtime, Bruder was able to send the ball sailing into the goal from the corner, clinching a victory for the Quakers in their eighth game of the season.
“I saw that [the goalie] was blocking the right side, so I said, "stay calm you got this," and finished it in the left bottom corner,” Bruder said. “I was so elated and so happy that our team got the result. We all just celebrated; we got in a dog pile. I couldn't breathe for a second, but it was amazing and a great way to end non-conference.”
With the win, the Quakers moved to 5-0 in home games. Up next, they will travel to Harvard to try to improve their road record in a matchup against the Crimson (6-0-1).