PRINCETON, N.J. - When is a tie as good as a win? Penn women's soccer has the answer.
On Saturday, the Quakers tied host Princeton, 0-0, at the Tigers' Roberts Stadium. With the draw, Penn is the 2010 Ivy League champion at 4-1-2. The Quakers also receive the conference's automatic bid into the 64-team NCAA Championship field, which will be announced Monday night at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.
Saturday's match had everything you might expect from a conference championship match -- except goals. That almost wasn't the case, though, as both teams had glorious chances in the overtime sessions.
In the first overtime, it looked like Penn (9-6-2, 4-1-2) might escape with the win when junior Ursula Lopez-Palm redirected a cross from the right side. Her shot hit the post, however, and Princeton keeper Claire Pinciaro was able to dive on it before more damage was done.
The real drama came in the dying seconds of the game. With Princeton (9-6-1, 4-2-1) pressing the play, needing a win to get the title and the NCAA bid, Penn gave up a free kick on the right side. In a play that was similar to a corner kick, a Tiger player headed the ball and it looked like it was heading into the goal.
Enter Colleen Barry. The junior defender somehow got her body on the ball before it could cross the goal line, and the ball was played to the side. Princeton then knocked it over the endline and the clock ran out as Penn began its celebration.
For Penn, it was the another stellar defensive effort against a Princeton team that grew increasingly attack-oriented as the match went on. The Quakers have shut out five of their last six opponents and now have nine clean sheets on the season.
The teams played some end-to-end soccer throughout the first half, but there were few chances of merit. Caroline Williams was called to make four saves, none that really tested her, while Pinciaro -- thrust into her first collegiate start this week due to injuries -- made just one stop.
Really, the best chance came with five minutes left before the break, when Penn freshman Laura Oliver got free for a shot from about 25 yards out that she put just over the crossbar. About a minute later, Kerry Scalora got deep into the Tiger box along the left side, but her cross was stopped by Pinciaro.
Princeton needed less than two minutes in the second half to get its best opportunity of the game to that point. Rachel Saunders was able to get through the Penn defense, but Williams cut off her angle and got in front of Saunders' effort from just inside the goalbox.
Three minutes later, Penn got its best effort on goal to that point, as a Sarah Friedman free kick found its way into the box and Kaitlin Campbell had a turnaround effort from about 15 yards out that went straight to Pinciaro.
As the match approached the hour, Marin McDermott got free for an effort on the left side of the box, but her left-footed effort was wide of the post.
Princeton's Caitlin Blosser put a shot from outside the box on goal, but Williams dug it out without incident.
Oliver looked like she might put the Quakers up with 18 minutes left in regulation when she took a feed from Friedman and one-timed a shot from just inside the box that just missed sneaking inside the left post.
Princeton held a majority of the play in the second half, but Penn got a nice chance late when Theresa Yankovich got to a ball ahead of her defender and toepoked a shot that didn't have quite enough to get over Pinciaro.
Penn had two incredible opportunities just as regulation neared its conclusion. Scalora took a corner kick that rang off the crossbar. A Princeton defender accidentally kicked it toward her goal, and Pinciaro was able to get on it before it crossed the goalline. Then, with the final 10 seconds counting down, Scalora got behind the defense and fired a looping shot from 30 yards out that a diving Pinicaro was able to get a hand on. She then beat Scalora to the ball in front of the goal as the horn sounded.
Princeton outshot Penn on the night, 11-10, but Williams had eight saves while Pinciaro finished with five.