PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania women’s soccer team had to fight and claw for 90 minutes on Friday night at Rhodes Field, but the Quakers emerged with a 3-2 win over Princeton.
So Penn finishes the regular season with a 12-1-4 overall record, unbeaten in its last 10 matches, and clinches second place in the Ivy League at 5-1-1. The Quakers are 11-0-1 in their last 12 Ivy League home matches, dating back to 2010.
Now it’s a weekend full of scoreboard watching for the Penn players and coaches. They entered the week 43rd in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which is usually a good barometer of how the 64-team NCAA Championship field will be picked. They will cheer for some teams around the country, root against some others, and hope to see their name come up on the board when the selections are announced on Monday at 4:30 p.m.
If the rest of the games that will take place over this weekend play out like Friday night’s Homecoming opener, fans are in for a treat. This was a rivalry game in every sense of the word, as both teams played hard from start to finish. The play was physical, but fair. Add in a boisterous crowd that nearly filled the Rhodes Field stands, and the atmosphere that comes with any late-autumn night match, and you got the sense that this is a night many of the women on the field will long remember.
Princeton (7-6-4, 1-5-1) shocked everyone by scoring less than four minutes into the contest. A seemingly harmless ball came into the Penn box at about the penalty spot, but as the defender waited for it to arrive the Tigers’ Tyler Lussi got her foot around the defender and collected the ball. She then fired it past Kalijah Terilli’s right. The sophomore keeper, who finished Friday’s match with five saves, tried to push the shot past the left post but could not.
Penn immediately showed a sense of urgency after Lussi’s goal. Despite that, the Quakers finished the half with just one shot -- but it was good for a goal. A ball was played over the Princeton defense on the right side, and became a footrace between Erin Mikolai and Tiger goalkeeper Darcy Hargadon. Mikolai won the race, pushing it past the sliding Hargadon. She then ran it in along the touchline and played it in front to Clara Midgley, who was open in front. The junior -- who scored both of Penn’s goals last year at Princeton -- easily pushed it into the open goal.
It was a stretch of 1:31 just after the hour mark that decided this match. At the 64:06 mark, a Penn ball from the left was played across the Princeton box. It seemed to be on its way out of danger, in the air and headed away from goal beyond the far post, when Mikolai -- whose head the ball was going over – swung her foot up for a volley attempt. The ball deflected off an onrushing Tiger defender, but not enough. It swished inside the right post, and suddenly Penn was up 2-1.
After that, there was an air of festivity in the air and Head Coach Darren Ambrose made sure his seniors were on the field to play their final minutes on Rhodes.
Princeton was able to get one of the goals back literally as the clock expired, Lussi heading it into the far post off a cross from the right side. Gabriella Guzman was credited with the assist. However, that was literally the last play of the game; the refs did not even ask for Penn to kick off.
Friday’s match was the last at home for Barth as well as fellow seniors Laura Oliver, Brianna Rano, Kerry Scalora, and Claire Walker. Friday’s win was their 19th in Ivy League play, more than any other class in Penn women’s soccer history, and their 44th overall which is surpassed only by the Classes of 2001 (48 wins) and 2002 (47).