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Sophomore running back Isaac Shabay tackles Brown player during a game on Oct. 29, 2022. Credit: Michael Palacios

With just under a month before Penn students return to campus, the Quakers’ sports teams are counting down the days before their return to action. Let’s take a look at five big games to watch out for in the athletic year ahead, and see how their outcomes could shape the seasons of the Red and Blue.

5. Volleyball vs. Princeton

Following a difficult 2022 season, Penn volleyball will have the chance to wipe the slate clean when the team goes toe-to-toe with Princeton on Sept. 22 at the Palestra — the Quakers' first Ivy League match of the year. After falling 0-3 to the Tigers last season, a victory for the Red and Blue would not only score revenge, but set the stage for a radically different 2023 campaign.

4. Men’s Basketball vs. Villanova

The Big 5 underwent a significant shakeup over the college basketball offseason. Though there will be significant changes to look forward to, fans should not overlook a classic Quakers on Wildcats matchup. Penn will host Villanova at the Palestra on Nov. 13 — just its second game of the season, and a huge test for a Red and Blue team now entering its post-Jordan Dingle era. Though the game will not contribute to their Ivy League title aspirations, a win over the nationally-relevant Wildcats would go a long way toward bolstering the Quakers’ case as contenders after the departure of the nation's second-leading scorer.

3. Field Hockey vs. North Carolina

The beginning of any season is always a challenge, but is there a greater test than facing off against the reigning national champion in the opener? This is the task at hand for Penn field hockey, who will take on North Carolina on Sept. 1 at Ellen Vagelos Field. The Tar Heels downed the Quakers 4-0 in their 2022 meeting, part of an 0-7 start for the Red and Blue. But after winning 7 of its final 10 games, Penn has the chance to build on the momentum acquired at the end of last season with a massive upset to ring in 2023.

2. Football vs. Brown

It's easy to glance at Penn football’s 2023 schedule and immediately circle its season finale matchup with Princeton as the game to watch. While a tilt with the Tigers will undoubtedly be titanic in terms of title ramifications, the Red and Blue’s clash with Brown is set to be just as crucial. Last season, the Quakers suffered an unexpected loss against the Bears that ended their 6-0 start and ultimately cost them the Ivy title. With such a short conference season, Penn need to be at its best week in and week out, and that includes the team's date with Brown. Additionally, the game will take place at 7 p.m. on Oct. 27 — the Friday night of “Halloweekend” — providing an opportunity for the most student enthusiasm the team has generated in years.

1. Men’s Soccer vs. Cornell

Last season, Penn men’s soccer captured their first Ivy League title since 2013 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. But the unsung turning point of that run was their thrilling 3-2 road victory over Cornell, knocking off the nationally-ranked Big Red and announcing the Quakers’ presence as the favorite for the Ancient Eight crown. This season, Penn will host Cornell on Oct. 7 at Penn Park — an opportunity for the Quakers to make a bold statement about their championship intentions this year.