PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania women's soccer team begins Ivy League play with a titanic match on Friday evening, hosting defending champion Harvard at Rhodes Field at 5 p.m. This match represents the last three Ivy titlists (Penn in 2010, Harvard in 2009 and 2011), so the winner gets a nice leg up in the standings after just one weekend. On Sunday, the Quakers will host Boise State, the third time this season that Penn has faced an opponent for the first time.
Harvard Game to Air For Free on PSN: Fans who can't get to Rhodes Field for Friday night's game will be able to watch it for free on the Penn Sports Network. To watch the game, click here and then click on the FREE TRIAL button on the right side.
Free T-Shirts! The first 400 Penn students who show up to Friday night's game will get a free t-shirt, courtesy of Penn Athletics. You must have a valid PennCard with you in order to get your shirt.
The Series with Harvard: The Crimson won the first 10 games in this series, from 1991 to 2000. Since then, the series is even, 4-4-3. Harvard won last year's tilt in Cambridge, 2-0. The year before, here in Philadelphia, Penn won a crazy game, 4-3.
About Harvard: The Crimson (3-2-1) might still be licking their wounds after an 8-1 loss to Boston College last weekend in Boston. Harvard's wins have come over UMass, Colgate and Quinnipiac. Taryn Kurcz leads the Crimson in scoring, with three goals, while Elizabeth Weisman has two goals and an assist. Bethany Kanten has started every match in goal, she has a 2.11 goals-against average and a .718 save percentage. Peyton Johnson was a first-team All-Ivy pick in the midfield a year ago, while Meg Casscells-Hamby was second-team as a midfielder.
The Series with Boise State: The Quakers and the Broncos are meeting for the first time in women's soccer. This is Penn's third time facing a new opponent this season, earlier the Red and Blue lost to Marist and then last Sunday they beat Sacramento State in double overtime.
About Boise State: The Broncos (4-5-1) come East with a two-match unbeaten streak, having beaten Nebraska-Omaha and tied Utah last weekend; they will play Navy on Friday. Shannon Schueren has been BSU's main offensive weapon, with five goals, while Lauren Hickok, Rebe Wolverton and Katy Oehring have two apiece. At the other end, Maddy McDevitt has a 1.33 goals-against average and a .660 save percentage.
*Penn started the 2012 season 2-0 for the second straight year and the third time in the last four seasons.
*Penn is 17-5-1 overall since the start of last season, and 21-6-3 over its last 30 matches dating back to the 2010 season. In those 30 matches, Penn has allowed just 16 goals.
*Penn's overtime win at Sacramento State last Sunday was its first in extra time since Oct. 30, 2010 -- coincidentally, also a 3-2 decision, this time over Brown. All-time, Penn is 9-9-35 in overtime matches.
*Freshman Erin Mikolai scored the winner over the Hornets, her first collegiate goal. As a result, she was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week, the first Ivy honor this year for a Penn women's soccer player.
*Another freshman, Elissa Berdini, scored Penn's first goal against Sac State and assisted Mikolai's winner. They were her first collegiate points.
*Kathryn Barth had Penn's second goal in Sacramento, it was her first this season. She is Penn's leading returning scorer from a year ago.
*Seven starters and 14 letterwinners overall return this year from last year's historic squad, which went 14-2-1 overall including a 5-1-1 mark in the Ivy League (good for second place behind Harvard). Penn is 9-2-3 in Ivy League play the last two years combined.
*Five players have three points for Penn this year - in addition to Berdini and Barth, there are juniors Brianna Rano, Kerry Scalora and Laura Oliver. Oliver's goal opened the scoring in the season opener against James Madison -- it came on her first touch of the game, and tied the game just 27 seconds after JMU had taken a 1-0 lead -- while Scalora's goal was the winner against the Dukes.
*Rano had Penn's first goal on Sept. 2 against Temple, while classmate Claire Walker netted the insurance goal late in the match. Rano's goal was the second of her career, while Walker's was her first as a collegian.
*Senior Sarah Banks has played all six games in goal for Penn, combining for 20 saves while allowing seven goals. She has been bolstered by a veteran defense in front of her that includes Rano and seniors Erin Thayer and Alex Dayneka alongside freshman Jazmyne Simmons.
*Penn's captains for 2012 are senior midfielder Erin Beck -- a second-year captain -- along with Dayneka and Walker.
*Penn returns three All-Ivy players from a year ago, two first-teamers in Beck and senior goalkeeper Banks. Barth was a second-team selection in 2011.
*In addition, Penn figures to be bolstered by the return of Scalora. The 2010 Ivy League and ECAC Rookie of the Year and second-team All-Ivy was injured in the Quakers' sixth game a year ago and missed the remainder of the season.
*Penn returns three of its top four scorers from a year ago in Barth (8g, 8a), sophomore Megan York (5g, 1a) and sophomore Callan Parra (4g, 2a). Yet another sophomore, Clara Midgley, scored four goals.
Last year's team put up some staggering numbers including...
*The best record in program history by percentage (14-2-1, .853).
*The 14 wins tied for most in program history (also 1997) and the two losses tied for fewest in program history (also 2001).
*An eight-match win streak, longest in program history (previous record six).
*The team allowed just seven goals all season, a program record (previous mark 13), and scored 39 goals which was tied for second-most in program history (also 2001).
*Penn posted 13 shutouts in 17 matches, setting a program record and leading the nation at the NCAA Division I level in shutout percentage (.765).
*Penn finished last year third nationally in goals-against average (0.41), sixth in win percentage (.853), and seventh in save percentage (.887).