2005 Women's Soccer Season in Review

2005 Final Stats in PDF Format

PHILADELPHIA - When the University of Pennsylvania women’s soccer team began the 2005 season, head coach Darren Ambrose knew that he had a lot of holes to fill but also that he had some talented players coming in. The question, then, was how quickly they would fill in and keep the Quakers competitive.

As it turned out, not long.

The Quakers had a number of freshmen step into the lineup and make significant contributions, and several players who had played minor roles in previous years stepped up when given the opportunity. The result was an 8-6-3 overall record, the program’s ninth-straight winning campaign and the sixth in as many seasons under Ambrose, the program’s all-time winningest coach. In addition, Penn posted seven shutouts for the second season in a row.

In the Ivy League, Penn finished with a deceptive 2-3-2 mark as the Quakers allowed just six goals and shut out three opponents. Included in that slate were a 1-1 tie with nationally ranked Yale; a 1-0 loss at Columbia in which the Quakers outshot the Lions 16-5; a 0-0 draw with Harvard when Penn outshot the Crimson 12-6; and a pulsating, 3-2 loss to Princeton that closed out the campaign. Only one of Penn's Ivy games had a margin larger than one (a 2-0 win over Cornell on October 1).

“When the season started, I knew the Ivy League was going to be a real battle,” said Ambrose. “I was disappointed we weren’t higher in the standings. On paper, we should have been low, but as the season went on we saw that we could play with anyone.

“Our loss at Columbia was a game where we played well in tough conditions and had nothing to show for it,” he continued. “Truthfully, I think that, aside from Dartmouth (a 1-0 loss), we could have been on the winning side of the sheet in any of our conference matches.”

When the 2005 season began, the biggest question facing Penn was who would replace Katy Cross, the program’s all-time scoring leader by a wide margin. It turned out to be a committee, as three different players (Carolyn Cross, Rachel Fletcher and Natalie Capuano) had five or more goals and seven different players netted the Quakers’ 23 goals.

“At times this season, we played the game very well,” said Ambrose. “We suffered a few inconsistencies, which is typical of a young team, but I felt like only a few times this season we did not give ourselves a chance to win.”

After a season-opening win over Rider, Penn actually put together one of its highlights in a 2-2 tie with a Loyola Marymount team that gave an early indication of the Quakers’ grit.

“We went down 2-0 early, but came back and got the tie in the final minute,” recalled Ambrose. “I thought that match defined our team for this year. I did not know if we had the type of team that could come back and chase the game. But in that match, they showed a lot of character and belief in themselves. To get a tie there gave us confidence.”

A four-match unbeaten streak – the only blemish was the tie with Harvard – was halted briefly by Loyola (Md.), but Penn recovered to beat an unbeaten Cornell team and then Bucknell in non-league action. At that point, the Quakers were 6-2-2 (1-0-1 Ivy League).

Then came the disaster at Columbia. In a torrential downpour and on a field that could generously be labeled “sloppy,” the Quakers outplayed the Lions, but a goal by the home team with just 1:01 left in regulation sealed Penn’s fate.

Penn recovered to down Temple in its next game, but facing the iron of the Ivy League – Dartmouth and Yale made this year’s NCAA Tournament, and Princeton returned a team that made last year’s College Cup semifinal round – the Quakers were unable to gain the upper hand. The only win in the last five matches of 2005 came at Brown, a 1-0 victory.

“We had a lot of freshmen earn spots on the team, and when they earned them they kept them,” said Ambrose. “And it was not just the freshmen who stepped up. Rachel Fletcher needed to step up as a leader and she did. We had a lot of examples of that -- people were forced to take on roles different than they had in years past, and they did.

“As a coach, it was exciting to see the women step up and make the most of their opportunities,” said Ambrose. “Every team has a few kids who make the most of the chance when they are given it, but we have a lot of them.”

At the end of the season, Penn’s play was rewarded by the Ivy coaches, as six players were honored with All-Ivy recognition headlined by Robin Watson who earned her third first-team honor. Only champion Yale had more players receive All-Ivy.

So what does that bode for 2006?

“In meeting with the women after the season, they are excited,” said Ambrose. “We have some superb players coming in next year, and when they get thrown into the mix with the returning players I think we’ll move back up in the Ivy standings.”

With the focus on the “kids” in the lineup, Penn will obviously miss the many seniors who graduate this year – a group that is headlined by Watson and includes Cross and goalkeeper Jessica Keeley, who both earned All-Ivy for the first time this season.

“You don’t just replace a Robin Watson,” said Ambrose of his long-time sweeper, who also earned All-Mid Atlantic honors from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). “We will be forced to do some things differently in the back next year, but it will be interesting to see how the leadership plays out. For the last few years it has been one voice, but I expect that next year it will be several. We have several players capable of settling into that leadership spot; opportunity brings about results with regard to leadership.”

Download: 2005 WSOC Stats FINAL.pdf