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10-23-2021-mens-soccer-vs-yale-stas-korzeniowski-copy
Freshman forward Stas Korzeniowski dribbles the ball down the field during a game against Yale at Rhodes Field on Oct. 23. Credit: William Bartoc

Neither Penn (7-3-3, 1-1-2 Ivy) nor Yale (5-4-4, 2-0-2 Ivy) could do it on a cold, rainy night in Philadelphia, as the teams ultimately shared the points following a tensely battled 110 minutes to a 0-0 result.

“I felt like we had a good sense of what they were capable of and where we can potentially look to expose them a little bit, and then also we knew what the dangers were in terms of their attack,” coach Brian Gill said. “Obviously, at this stage of the year, we'd like to be able to figure out how to win that game. But, a point in conference still is productive and still useful, and we'll look at that and take that as a silver lining.”

The Bulldogs were running a five-game unbeaten streak as the Quakers were fighting to extend their three consecutive wins. The first and second placed teams of the Ivy League in 2019, respectively, thus arrived properly poised to effectively counter the other, especially with each team’s strong defensive qualities in preceding matches. 

The outset of the match at the initial whistle predicted an intense confrontation to follow as players were immediate on shoulder-to-shoulder contests.

“We knew what they had; we knew they were going to be physical,” graduate defenseman RC Williams said, “and we had to deal with that.”

The referee was generous on the whistle throughout the game. Seven fouls were called in the first 15 minutes as the frequent stoppages emphasized the high intensity of physicality between the players. The match demanded clinicality from each defense as pressures were fought high up the field, and play quickly transitioned very often. 

“Coming into a game like this, we felt as though they were almost more dangerous without the ball because of their ability to transition on us -- if we turn it over in a bad spot,” Gill said. “So I think we were trying to figure out our best postures defensively as a unit, and not be rash, and just commit to things while sacrificing some of the space in behind.”

Freshman Charlie Gaffney was first to record a shot on goal at four minutes. The Bulldogs then proved their threat on the opposite side of the field as Yale’s Paolo Carroll, who is tied for second in the Ivy League for goals, notched his first of many attempts at goal.

About halfway into the first half, Matt Leigh nudged off his defender from the right to push the ball near the box, where senior Ben Stitz knocked a strong-aimed shot at center of goal that was saved.

Yale replied soon with an attempt on goal following a corner. Carroll headed the ball on a precise cross from the left, but senior goalie Dane Jacomen was already well positioned to make the save.

"They were very dependent on transitions, and I think we did well in the beginning -- and throughout the whole game -- to kind of snuff that out a bit,” junior midfielder Nick Schimbeno said. “I do wish that we got a goal also.”

Five minutes after Penn’s last shot on goal, freshman Stas Korzeniowski marched the ball through several defenders on the left, from which graduate student Joey Bhangdia launched an excellent shot towards the top right of goal. Yale keeper Elian Haddock took flight to make the one-handed save.

Neither team could break down the others’ final third, and the first half concluded 0-0. Penn had managed six shots with four on goal compared to Yale’s three and one, and both sides were optimistic for further chances in the second half.

The referee did not notice the two Yale forwards making an apparent early start before his whistle to the second half, but play continued as the two teams resumed immediate pressure.

Eight throw-ins during the first ten minutes brought pauses in play as each team fought opposing advances through the wings. 

“We absolutely want to play as much soccer as we can, but sometimes getting it down the line and putting them in a bad spot is the best thing for us,” Schimbeno said.

At ten minutes, Bhangdia attempted a bicycle kick which flew right of the goal. Yale’s Carroll would also attempt one after his own header on a corner kick hit the crossbar at 17 minutes left in the second half.

Another one of Penn’s best chances arose from Bhangdia’s corner kick that dropped into the box with a properly aimed deflection-header off Leigh, but the ball was cleared away right at the far post by Yale’s Daniel Massaad.

Like the first half, neither the Quakers nor the Bulldogs could quite push their chances across the line. Yale’s crosses from the wings tended to fly long, and Penn’s corners were countered with a crowd of white shirts at goal.

The match would remain scoreless unless one team made any mistakes in defense, which didn’t occur. Jacomen again worked in good harmony with Penn’s center backs to clear the ball while making four total saves of his own.

In the final 30 seconds, senior Isaac McGinnis and Bhangdia each attempted shots at goal after keeping the ball alive on the rebounds. But the match, which almost seemed inevitable to run into overtime, would see two periods of it following the 90 minute whistle.

Both overtime periods ran quite eventless as the teams continued to counteract opposing pressure. Defenses remained in high focus, but neither team could complete their plays as defenders looked to interrupt passing plays. 

The night ended with the scoreboard locked on 0-0, but the Quakers left the field as if they had just suffered a loss.

“I think that the team will be somewhat unsatisfied initially by the result, because of the fact that we probably feel like we could have gotten the result,” Gill said. “Sometimes a result like tonight is what helps you wind up getting a particular spot in the Ivy League standings.”

To come out of a 0-0 result against reigning champion Yale presents a good sign of the Quakers’ goals.

“We're still undefeated in the past five games, so I think we're going to kind of focus on that and try to just continue that streak,” Schimbeno said.

“Double digit wins on the table is the best record we’ve had in a long time,” Williams said.

With this draw, Penn men's soccer will hope to fuel a rebound as they head out on the road to play Brown next Saturday.

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