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Junior forward Ginger Fontenot heads the ball away from a Stony Brook defender during the game at Rhodes Field on Sept. 11. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Traveling to the Golden State is on the horizon for the Red and Blue, who currently possess a not-so-golden record. 

Penn women’s soccer (2-0-4) will take off to California to face off with Saint Mary’s College (4-1-2) on Thursday, and then the University of California, Berkeley (3-1-3) on Sunday.

The team has shown a lot of promise in its start to the 2022 season. Yet there’s one major weak spot that keeps snatching wins away from the team’s fingertips: the inability to close out games.

In half of the team’s six matches thus far, a late goal scored by the opposing team has gone on to be the match’s deciding factor. Three out of the four draws ended in a 1-1 final score — with each of the late goals being scored in the second half of play.

“Three times we’ve had the lead but haven’t been able to close out, so that is definitely a focus point,” head coach Krissy Turner said. “It’s been great to get ahead, but finishing the game out — whatever that may look like — whether it be managing the last five minutes or managing the last 10 minutes, just continuing to grow and improve in that area I think is super important.”

Penn's tie last week against Navy was especially frustrating as the late goal was scored with less than 10 minutes of game time left on the clock.

“I think we have to learn how to be a complete 90-minute focused team,” senior captain Peyton Raun said following the matchup against Navy. “We can’t be giving up late goals if we want to be defensively strong enough to prove that we can get shutouts.”

Raun also noted that the team must not lose hope. She believes the current keys to the Red and Blue’s success include growing its winning mentality and confidence — which seemingly worked, as the team recorded a dominant 3-0 win over Stony Brook just three days after its tie against Navy.

The main contributor to Penn women’s soccer’s success last season were these high-scoring shutouts. 

By focusing on finishing out games, the Quakers have the potential to secure a couple of victories in California. It will also prove good preparation for in-conference games, which loom right around the corner.

Both opponents the Quakers are set to compete against on their road trip boast more triumphant records, but also have their fair share of struggles with low-scoring games and disappointing draws.

Saint Mary’s and Cal shape up to be two very talented challengers, but Penn has prepared for the matches by continuing to work on its possession, decisions with the ball, and ball movement. 

“While it is an awesome trip to go across the country — and for several of our players on the roster, they are from the state of California, so for them to get to go back home is awesome — at the end of the day it is a business trip,” Turner said. “That is how we need to approach it. … Yes, it is fun, yes, it is great, and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, we are going out there to compete and to win.”

With Ivy League play waiting for the team as soon as it returns — and a disastrous 0-4-2 away record in the 2021 season — it is critical that Penn women’s soccer picks up a pair of wins on its West Coast trip.