On a cold Friday night along the banks of the Schuylkill River at Penn Park, Penn men’s soccer (7-3-6, 4-1-2 Ivy) faced off against Brown (5-4-8, 2-0-5) in the semifinals of the Ivy League Tournament. By the time the game ended nearly three hours after the first kick, the night was even chillier, as the Quakers fell 2(2)-2(3) in penalty kicks following a tense, back-and-forth affair.
From the opening kickoff, Brown was on the offensive, applying consistent pressure and forcing two corner kicks in the first 10 minutes. However, the Quakers managed to keep a strong defense against these early set piece chances. For these efforts, Brown used the left wing and midfielder Kojo Dadzie very frequently.
Penn attack tried to go out with counterattacks and the link-up plays established by junior forward Stas Korzeniowski. The Quakers had their first corner at the 16th minute, and started to gain control of the game with a 20th-minute freekick and a possible goal chance at the 25th minute when Korzeniowski managed to pass the ball into the box, but was denied by Brown's goalkeeper Hudson Blatteis.
"Tonight’s game was a battle from start to finish," coach Brian Gill said. "It had a very intense playoff feeling, which is what we could only hope for."
As the clock wound toward halftime, each team had chances, but neither could capitalize, and the ball found its way to the hands of Blatteis as the halftime horn sounded. Despite the score still locked at 0-0, each team had managed one shot on goal. The Quakers held an overall shots advantage of 5-2, but Brown had four corners to Penn’s one.
For 25 minutes, the second half was much like the first. Both teams had energy and traded attacks, with scoring chances few and far between. But all this changed in the 71st minute when the Quakers won a corner kick. After the original ball was deflected outside of the box, Korzeniowski headed it back in, where junior midfielder Leo Burney found the back of the net with an incredible bicycle kick.
But Brown wasn’t done, and with a newfound energy the Bears started to attack and gain control of the ball. As the game approached the last 10 minutes, the Bears tightened their grip on the game and kept solid possession of the ball. The Quakers tried to bounce back with counterattacks, but without a second goal to clinch victory, the Bears still had a chance.
That chance paid off with an 88th-minute cross by Charlie Adams and a header by Levi Pillar, which ricocheted off the bar and into the back of the net as the Bears equalized the game. After two more minutes of the game, in which freshman goalkeeper Phillip Falcon made a leaping save to prevent a winner, regulation was over and overtime would commence with the teams tied 1-1.
Halfway through the first added period, Penn got one of its best chances, as a shot by senior midfielder Michael Hewes narrowly missed the goal. On the ensuing counter, it was the Bears who were successful, as Scott Gustafson scored on a sudden but lethal shot from the left side. After being just a few minutes from victory, Penn now found itself needing a goal to force penalties and stave off defeat.
Roles were reversed at the beginning of the second overtime, as it was Penn who had just 10 minutes in order to score and continue their hopes for the season. The Quakers started the period with passion. After a throw-in at the 102nd minute, the duo from the first goal showed up again, but this time the roles were reversed. After a pass from Burney, Korzeniowski headed the ball to the top left corner of the goal and equalized the game for the Quakers.
With the season on the line, both teams gave it everything they had. At the 106th minute, the Bears attacked from the right wing and managed to get inside the box. A tackle by senior midfielder Mateo Zazueta missed the ball, and the Bears got a penalty.
As Dadzie approached the penalty spot, the tension was palpable. The fate of both the Quakers and the Bears depended on one kick. In the blink of an eye, the spectators saw Falcon live up to his name and fly to the left side of the goal, saving the penalty, and potentially his team from elimination.
After a few more minutes, the teams were locked, and headed to penalties. Ninety minutes couldn't decide the game, and neither could 20 more. Now, this match's result — and Penn's fate — would come down to a series of kicks from the spot.
Each team made its first try, missed its second, and made its third. But in the fourth round, the Brown goalkeeper blocked the attempt by Burney, and Lorenzo Amaral scored for the Bears, making it 3-2 for Brown. In the fifth round, junior midfielder Aaron Messer’s attempt missed high, and the game was over.
"These games with tight margins are always close, and unfortunately for us, it didn’t go our way," Gill said. "Congratulations to Brown on advancing to the finals. Hats off to our seniors for the way they played tonight and the impact they have made on our program."
Brown advances to the tournament final against Yale, who dispatched Harvard 4-0 earlier in the evening, at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Dunning-Cohen Champions Field. But for Penn — the Ancient Eight's regular season champions and the tournament's No. 1 seed — this loss marks the end of the Ivy League season.