PHILADELPHIA - For the senior members of the Penn women's soccer team, Saturday night's home match against Princeton was so much more than a meeting with their archrival. It meant their final home game wearing the Red and Blue.
So it was only proper that Ursula Lopez-Palm would score twice, and at the other end Caroline Williams would come up big to preserve the Quakers' 3-1 win over the Tigers. The victory gave Penn a 14-2-1 record for the season, tying a program mark for most wins (previously set in 1997). And while the Quakers gave up a goal for the first time in nine matches -- before Saturday, the last goal they allowed was in September -- they had more than enough offense to extend their unbeaten streak to 10 matches.
The night had an unfortunate end, but only because of what happened two hours North. That was where Harvard defeated Columbia, 1-0, allowing the Crimson to complete their run to the Ivy championship at 6-0-1. Penn will have to relinquish its crown from a year ago and settle for second place at 5-1-1 in conference play. (It is not lost on this observer, at least, that the Quakers' Ivy mark this year surpasses last year's 4-1-2 championship season.)
So Penn's fate for the NCAA Championship field now rests in the hands of the Selection Committee. The 64-team field will be announced on Monday afternoon, and the Quaker women can only hope that the NCAA sees enough in their record and schedule to give them an at-large bid.
As for Saturday's proceedings, Lopez-Palm put the Quakers up in the 18th minute and they never looked back. A long ball by Brianna Rano was played over the top to the Tigers' 18, and when a Princeton defender overran the ball Lopez-Palm was left alone to fire a shot past goalkeeper Kristin Watson.
Williams then came to rescue to keep the lead intact. Making her first start since last year, she had four saves in the opening stanza including a couple of high-class stops. In particular, she denied a Lauren Lazo effort from the top of the box that was ticketed for goal. At the half, Penn's lead remained 1-0.
It didn't take long in the second for the lead to double. Rano again got the play started, as she chipped a ball over a Princeton player to teammate Kathryn Barth. Barth made a touch, then sent a pass to Erin Beck who chipped it over Watson into the goal just 3:32 into the half.
Princeton made things nervy in the 58th minute. Sara Chehrehsa sent in a ball that Jen Hoy headed into the goal to make the score 2-1.
It stayed that way until Lopez-Palm struck again, giving the Quakers and their fans a chance to breathe again. This time she was led by Claire Walker and popped a shot over Watson's head and into the goal with just 7:31 remaining in regulation.
Williams went the entire way in her final home appearance and ended the match with seven saves, while Watson had none as Princeton outshot Penn on the night, 11-7. In addition to Williams and Lopez-Palm, the other seniors who played their final match at home were Colleen Barry, Adrienne Lerner, Kelly McCarthy, Marin McDermott, and Theresa Yankovich.