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PHILADELPHIA – For the fourth time in the past 12 seasons, Penn enters the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament, hosting for the third time over that span as the Quakers host Providence at Rhodes Field on Thursday with a 7 p.m. start.
The Quakers (8-8-1, 5-1-1 Ivy League) clinched an automatic bid to their 10th NCAA Tournament with an Ivy League championship secured in the season’s final match. Penn traveled to Harvard, and knocked off the first-place Crimson , 2-0, to win the program’s eight Ivy title.
Providence earned at at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament on the strength of a 12-5-3 record overall and a 6-3-0 mark in the BIG EAST. The Friars advanced to the championship game of the BIG EAST Tournament at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., falling to Marquette, 3-2.
With nine wins in its nine previous entries to the national tournament, Penn ranks 25th out of the 48 teams entered in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. In terms of winning percentage, Penn’s .500 record is tied for 21st among the 48 teams competing for a national title in 2013.
The Red and Blue are 9-9 all-time in NCAA Tournament matches, and are 8-3 in 11 matches played at home in the NCAA Tournament. The last two matches Penn has played in the NCAA Tournament have required extra time – both 1-0 wins for Penn at Rhodes Field. The Quakers defeated Seton Hall, 1-0, in 2002 before downing Bucknell in 2010.
With eight goals and three assists for 19 points this season, Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year Duke Lacroix leads a potent Penn offense into the postseason. His eight goals are a new career high (five; 2011, 2012) and most since Stephen Baker had eight in 2010. He ranks second in the Ivy League in both goals and points entering the postseason.
In Ivy League play, Penn led the Ancient Eight in both team offense and team defense en route to the championship. The Red and Blue scored 12 goals in six Ivy matches, while conceding just five. Those numbers equal the 2008 club’s numbers – also on the way to an Ivy title – for the best numbers on both sides of the ball in League play under Rudy Fuller.
Of the 29 goals scored by Penn in 2013, 11 have come from freshmen – accounting for 38% of Penn’s scoring. Sam Hayward (five goals), Alec Neumann (four goals) and Matt Poplawski (two goals) have contributed immediately to the offense, including three game-winning goals from the group.
Max Polkinhorne has posted a 4-0-0 record in his first season with Penn after transferring from Santa Clara. The sophomore won his first career start, a 3-2 win over Drexel to end a six-game losing streak for Penn. After suffering an injury in a 1-0 win over Cornell, Polkinhorne missed the next five matches. He came off the bench against Princeton when Tyler Kinn was injured and earned the win with a scoreless 41:53 of play. Against Harvard, he made four saves in a 2-0 shutout win. Since allowing a goal in the 88’ against Drexel on Oct. 2, Polkinhorne has gone 224:37 of game play without conceding a goal.
Providence has made six NCAA Tournament appearances. In six appear¬ances, the Friars have posted a 3-3 record in the first round. Providence’s last trip to NCAAs came in 2011 when the Friars defeated an Ivy League team – Dartmouth – to reach the Second Round.
Second-team All-BIG EAST and All-Rookie Team selection Julian Gressel paces Providence with 14 points on five goals and four assists. The German-born striker has two game-winning goals in 2013. Senior Anthony Baumann is second on the team lead with four goals, but his have all been in extremely special situations as he is 4-for-4 on penalty kicks in 2013. In all, 11 different players have scored for the Friars, with seven different players tallying at least three goals.
Junior goalkeeper Keasel Broom has started all 20 matches for the Friars and allowed 23 goals while making 55 saves. He has five clean sheets this season, including a 0-0 draw with No. 7 Georgetown in the BIG EAST semifinals last week.