Playing for the first time in almost two years, Penn women’s soccer started the season off strong, finishing its game on Friday against Temple with a draw and winning its game against George Mason on Sunday.
In addition to their extended hiatus being a noteworthy factor going into their first games, the Quakers were also playing for the first time under new head coach Casey Brown.
After former head coach Nicole Van Dyke resigned from Penn in January of 2020 to take the same job at Washington, Brown, who was awarded 2019 Patriot League Coach of the Year while at Holy Cross, was hired in March of 2020.
In her first game, which was against Temple, Penn controlled the pace during the first half, leading the Owls by two in shots on goal and five in corners. However, Temple entered halftime with a 1-0 lead after midfielder Erin Theiller netted a goal in the 31st minute of play.
Despite the deficit, as the Quakers entered halftime, Brown was impressed by the level of mental toughness her team showed.
“I think that the team showed great resiliency in terms of going into the locker room and just feeling confident in getting back to what we want to do,” Brown said postgame via Penn Athletics.
That mindset paid off when, roughly three fourths of the way through the game, the Quakers tied it up with a goal from sophomore forward Ginger Fontenot.
Since there was no soccer play last season, Fontenot was playing in the very first game of her career and, in doing so, scored the goal that prevented Penn from starting its season off with a loss.
Additionally, sophomore Lauren Teuschl notched the assist on the crucial goal in what was the first game of her career as well, and sophomore Laurence Gladu held steady in goal, making three saves in her first match.
Although Penn finished with a tie, it certainly gave itself plenty of chances to push ahead of Temple, as it finished the game with a 12-4 lead in corners and a 16-4 lead in shots on goal.
“It’s just a great starting point,” Brown said postgame via Penn Athletics. “I’m really proud of the effort. The girls put in a real shift. We liked the way we were organized, we liked the way we moved the ball, and there’s things to go back and tidy up a little bit, but we felt like it was just a really good starting place for us.”
In their second game against George Mason, the Red and Blue were seemingly able to tidy up the areas that they may have struggled with against Temple, as they again fell behind early but were able to capitalize on more of their opportunities, which allowed them to rally back for a 2-1 win.
Since their match against Temple was on the road, Penn’s bout with George Mason also marked the team’s home debut, which held particular significance after a long stretch away from the pitch.
“For the girls to be able to play back on Rhodes [Field], it just means so much to us, and we wanted to do our part and set it right with a win,” Brown said postgame via Penn Athletics. “That’s huge. We want to make this a difficult place to play, and I think tonight was the first step in the right direction.”
During the 22nd minute of the game, Patriot forward Dacheka Kolcum scored on a header off of a free kick to take the early lead for the visiting team. Then, just two minutes later, Teuschel scored off a cross by junior midfielder/forward Sizzy Lawton to tie the game up at one apiece. For Teuschel, the goal marked the second point of her career, a strong start with having played just two games so far.
After her goal, the Patriots and the Quakers went back and forth for the next 46 minutes before Penn jumped ahead to take the decisive lead. The game-winner came from senior Mia Shenk via a pass by 2019 honorable mention All-Ivy Sizzy Lawton, who earned her second assist of the game.
“[It was] unfortunate to go down early, but [I’m] incredibly proud of the girls’ effort,” Brown said postgame. “Playing a real direct, gritty team like that, we had to fight and find a new way. [I’m] just really impressed with, again, the continued resiliency, but just the overall team fight and mentality to get back in the game and pose our own style. So we’re very pleased with that effort.”
Penn women’s soccer will look to keep its positive momentum going on Thursday at 6 p.m. when it goes against the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) at home.
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