Though Penn men's soccer fell on penalty kicks to Brown in the semifinal of the Ivy tournament to end its season, the loss doesn't tell the full story.
The Quakers finished its regular season with three straight wins in the Ivy League, culminating in a decisive 4-1 Senior Day victory over Princeton. Following this stellar performance, Penn secured the top seed and hosting right for the conference tournament.
Penn’s overall record of 7-3-6 placed almost as many draws as wins under its belt this season, but there was definitely a sense of victorious momentum going into what was ultimately its final match. The team's opponent to kick off the tournament was No. 4 seed Brown, whom the Quakers had tied earlier in the season on the road in Providence, R.I. That game’s emphasis on strong defensive play carried over into the tournament. The Quakers entered the semifinal match seemingly determined to rectify the inaction of their previous head-to-head against the Bears.
In spite of a few attempts back and forth, both teams refused to let in any goals at the beginning, with the first half ended in a scoreless stalemate. As tensions mounted going into the second half, Penn was ready for Brown’s surge in offense and matched its intensity, echoing recent wins by rising up to a new level of play. The shots came faster, with junior defenders Ben Do and Leo Burney each taking a close shot on goal and making a crucial block to keep the teams fiercely level. Burney was on fire as not long after that, he scored the first goal of the game and his first of the season — a crowd-rousing bicycle kick that put Penn on the board.
Though Brown scored to tie it back up, the pair of overtime periods that followed showcased Penn's elite talent. Junior forward Stas Korzeniowski’s proved once again that he is the man the Red and Blue can count on to deliver when stakes are the highest. His sixth goal of the season found the back of the net to equalize it in the second period of overtime.
Another incredible performance came from freshman goalkeeper Phillip Falcon III, a debut talent who had a heart-stopping crucial save that pushed the game into overtime, and another on a penalty with just a few minutes left in the extra periods. With senior goalkeeper Nick Christoffersen scratched from the starting lineup at the last minute, Falcon stepped up when the team needed him first, and didn't shy away from a heck of a challenge to call his collegiate start.
The Quakers’ season ended in penalty kicks, but their performance in the tournament was hardly disappointing. Winning is important, and it would have been amazing to watch Penn go all the way to the finals and earn their championship. It definitely could have happened this year, but Penn men's soccer should not feel disheartened by the end of their season. Brown proved to be a fierce opponent this year, and both teams were able to convert the previous 0-0 draw into an unpredictable game with over two hours of neck-and-neck play.
Every game and situation is different, especially when an Ivy League Championship is on the line, so there was no guarantee that the past few wins would place the finals in the Quakers’ lap. However, in contrast to the frustrating result of the previous Brown game, this shift in play proves Penn’s commitment to consistent and intentional improvement. Many players — such as Falcon, Korzeniowski, and Burney — played arguably their best individual soccer of their seasons and let all their hard work culminate in the final moments.
The grit and dedication of the Quakers was notable, and after the initial sting, there’s always more to learn from a tight, hard-fought loss than an easy win. Penn should be proud of this game and their winning record this season, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for this team.
JACKSON ZUERCHER is a freshman and current sports reporter studying cinema and media studies and political science from Philadelphia.