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Full Penn Season Preview
PHILADELPHIA - Home Sweet Home. For head coach Rudy Fuller and the Penn men's soccer team, there are five chances to prove the proverbial saying true to start the 2012 season as the Quakers open the campaign with five consecutive home matches. Up first, Patriot League foe Lafayette on August 31 (5 p.m.) followed by a 6 p.m. tilt with Hartford on Sept. 2.
The five-match homestand is Penn's longest stretch of games at Rhodes Field since another five-gamer from Sept. 19-Oct. 1 in 2008. The Quakers would love to replicate the success the 2008 club had in the stretch - the eventual Ivy champions picked up points in all five matches with a 3-0-2 record as part of a 5-1-2 home mark that season. Last year, Penn was 4-3-1 at home, outscoring opponents 17-9.
Opening up the home slate for the Red and Blue this season are the Lafayette Leopards. Last year, the Leopards finished with a 9-5-4 overall record with a 3-2-2 mark in Patriot League play - just missing out on the league's playoffs. A stingy defensive squad, Lafayette finished 2011 with a 0.47 goals-against average - ranked fourth in the country - and 10 clean sheets in 18 matches. Sophomore defender Julian Plummer was second-team All-Patriot League last season as a rookie, while senior Sean Peckham was second-team NSCAA All-Region and first-team All-Patriot in the midfield. On Tuesday, Lafayette opened its season with a 1-0 loss at Fairleigh Dickinson on a goal from FDU in the 86th minute. Senior Kyle Schardenberg is the leading returner for the Leopards, pacing the team for the second year in a row with seven goals. Classmate Blake Fink had four goals last season as Lafayette returns its top two scorers.
On Sunday, Penn will play New Hampshire for the first time ever. The Wildcats enter the weekend with a 1-1 record, and have a Friday match with Marist before heading to Philadelphia. After a 3-0 loss to Oakland to begin 2012, UNH responded with a 1-0 win in double overtime against Michigan State. Jordan Thomas had the winner for the Wildcats, his fifth career goal. The Wildcats have four Pennsylvania natives on their roster, including goalkeeper Travis Worra (Lancaster) and defender Ryan McNabb (Downingtown) to go with Thomas (Mohnton) and defender Jeffrey Turner (Blandon). Last year, the 'Cats were 7-9-2 overall and 1-3-0 on the road.
Both matches this weekend will be broadcast online via the Penn Sports Network at PennAthletics.com. Dan Fritz returns for his second year calling the action for the Quakers.