The 2006 men's soccer season at Penn was entertaining, suspenseful and emotional -- everything you would expect from Ivy League soccer. Led by one of the best goalkeepers in Penn's history, Daniel Cepero, the Red and Blue posted a 9-4-2 record, went 5-1-1 in Ivies (good for second place behind Harvard), and posted the lowest goals-against average in the League.
The thrilling performances of the Quakers kept them at the top of the Ivy standings for most of the season, but they were nudged out of the title hunt in the final game of the season. As if having the Ivy title narrowly evade them was not cruel enough, adding insult to injury, Penn was overlooked for an at-large placement in the NCAA tournament. Still, the Red and Blue's second-place standing was its best finish since the winning the title in 2002.
Just days before learning their post-season fate, the Quakers had done what no other Penn team had done in more than 30 years -- defeat Princeton, at Princeton. The brisk fall day, combined with the age-old Penn-Princeton rivalry and overtime drama, made the game one to remember. Sophomore Kevin Unger scored the final blow, with help from the season's top scorer, Mike Klein.
Klein led the team in points and assists and marked a career night with five points off two goals and an assist against St. Joseph's at the Penn Soccer Classic in September. The Quakers claimed that tournament title, as well as the prestigious Mayor's Cup hosted by Hartwick.
Cepero was named the tournament's defensive MVP for his efforts in the Mayor's Cup. Penn also earned six Player-of-the-Week honors throughout the season -- one from the Ivy League, and five from the Philadelphia Soccer Seven.
The cumulative effect was six players gaining recognition from the Ivy League at the end of the season. Cepero was a unanimous All-Ivy first team selection and junior Keith Vereb joined him on the top team. Derek Hobson, Klein and Alex Grendi were named to the second team and Ryan Tracy received note as an honorable mention.
Penn went 4-2 in non-league play before rolling into the Ivies beginning with Harvard, the eventual champion, on Sept. 23. The Quakers handed the Crimson a 3-1 decision, one of just five losses Harvard would suffer in a 14-5 season.
After a quick trip to Ithaca, N.Y., to defeat Cornell 1-0, Penn returned home to play the first of five overtime games on the season. A scoreless tie was the result after 110 minutes of action against a vigorous Seton Hall. Next up was an overtime win against Columbia, in eerily similar circumstances from the previous year in New York City -- a windy and rainy night game, and a Penn striker from Wisconsin nailed the overtime winner. Last season it was Klein; this season Unger was the hero with less than three minutes to go in the second overtime. Penn also played extra minutes against American (2-1 loss), Brown (0-0 tie) and Princeton (1-0 win).
Penn nearly doubled its opponents' goal production (23-12) thanks in large part to the superior goalkeeping of Cepero. The senior captain held steady in the goal for eight season shutouts. In his career, he became far and away the leader in Penn's history with 23 career clean sheets. Even prior to his final season, Cepero had etched his name in several places in the history book.
Also saying farewell to the Quakers this season was Andy Howard, who helped anchor the backfield and started 13 of 15 games this season. He scored five goals in his career at Penn.
This season's goal co-leader, Tracy, also bids the team adieu. He tallied four goals including the game-winner against Hartwick. In his career, Tracy had 17 points.
Finally, Chuck Snyder, a three-year letterwinner for the Quakers, spent his senior season on the sidelines as an undergraduate coach due to a persistent injury. As a player, Snyder played 26 games in the midfield and marked one assist.
The returning cast of Quakers include a three-man senior class of All-Ivy second team selections Hobson andVereb, along with Jeffrey Livingston.
The 2007 junior class is stacked with the likes of scoring powers Klein, Unger, Omid Shokoufandeh and Grendi. The defense-minded John Elicker and Ryan Porch as well as off-the-bench contributors Andrew Ferry, Joshua Baugh and Drew Chesser will provide a solid core for the Red and Blue.
The biggest question will be the goalkeeping position left vacant by Cepero. Neither junior Drew Healy nor sophomore Kevin Sweetland have seen any game time at Penn, but will vie for the starting gig through the spring season and fall preseason.