The 2004 men’s soccer season was an up-and-down journey for Penn. The Quakers upended a ranked opponent, earned a national ranking and rode a seven-game unbeaten streak before hitting a tough stretch in which they lost six of their last seven. However, the Red and Blue also had four student-athletes garner Ivy League accolades and one earn national academic recognition.
In the Beginning
Penn opened their 2004 campaign by playing its first three games on the road. The season began Sept. 5 with a 3-1 loss at Villanova. The Quakers, however, would rebound Sept. 10-11 at the Coca-Cola Panther Classic in Milwaukee, Wisc., splitting two games. In the opening game against Wisconsin, the Quakers recorded a 3-0 victory. Freshman Derek Hobson tallied a goal and an assist, while junior Justin Estrada recorded two assists. Sophomore goalkeeper Daniel Cepero would record his first of six shutouts with nine saves. Against host Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a defensive miscue in overtime resulted in a 2-1 loss. Estrada tapped in the deflected save from a shot by senior David Maier at 20:05. The Panthers got on the board at the 71:41 mark. Tied 1-1, the two teams battled into overtime, but just six minutes in, Chris Mallace intercepted the ball from the Quaker backline and slipped it past a diving Cepero. Derrick Jumper, Estrada, and Maier were named to the Coca-Cola Panther Invitational All-Tournament Team for their performances. In addition, Hobson earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week accolades.
A Red and Blue Streak
Returning home for the first time in the young season, the Quaker stepped on Rhodes Field for the Penn Soccer Classic Sept. 17-18. Not only did the Red and Blue make quick work of the competition to take the tournament, but a crucial upset over No. 18 South Carolina sparked a seven-game unbeaten streak. During that time, the Quakers were completely dominating on the field, outscoring opponents 11-3. Cepero posted a 0.41 goals against average with 31 saves and four shutouts.
Against South Carolina, senior Stephen Kroculick netted the game-winner in the 79th minute to lift the Quakers over the Gamecocks, 2-1. After a scoreless first half, Penn struck first at the 62:27 mark. Senior Joshua Duyan wove through a series of defenders to put home his first goal of the season. South Carolina tied the score just eight minutes later at 70:47. But the Red and Blue did not back down as Kroculick took a feed from Duyan and rang home the game-winner from the right side. Cepero made eight saves on the day. In the second game of the Classic, the Red and Blue, behind an Erik Violante goal, earned a 1-0 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson. Duyan earned Ivy League Player of the Week honors for his performance against South Carolina.
After capturing the Penn Soccer Classic, the Quakers earned their first regional ranking by the Nation Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), of the year, moving up to fifth team in the Middle Atlantic Region.
As Penn continued to climb the regional ranks, the Quakers cruised to a 2-0 win over Drexel, battled to a 1-1 tie at Loyola to close out September and opened October by shutting out Columbia, 2-0, and Cornell 2-0. Cepero was named the Philadelphia Soccer Seven Player of the Week and to the Ivy League Honor Roll after recording his fifth shutout of the season.
Penn finally earned recognition on a national scale as they were tabbed the15th team in the country, for their highest ranking since 2002. After earning a 1-1 draw at Dartmouth on Oct. 17, the Red and Blue moved up one spot to become ranked14th
All Things Must Come to an End
While No. 14 Penn was enjoying their streak, an ominous foe in No. 25 Maryland was next on the schedule. The Terps came out in full force and handed the Quakers a very tough 1-0 defeat. The loss not only snapped the streak, but was Penn’s first at home since Nov. 8, 2003. It was the first time Penn had been shutout in 14 games dating back to Oct. 29, 2003 against Seton Hall.
The Quakers seemed to struggle in their next five contests falling to Yale, No. 14 Seton Hall, Brown, American and Princeton.
Finishing Up on a Positive Note
Despite the late-season skid, the Quaker wrapped up the 2004 campaign on a high note with a 1-0 victory over Harvard to tie the Crimson for fifth in the Ivy League. Sophomore Andy Howard’s first goal of the season came at the right moment as he helped the eight graduating seniors leave with one last victory. Howard’s goal came just 9:13 into the contest as Howard knocked down a direct kick and blasted it in the back of the net. Penn finished the year with a 7-8-2 overall record and a 3-3-1 mark in the Ivy League.
Spreading the Points
Fifteen different Quakers tallied at least one point for Penn this season. Kroculick led the way for the second-straight season with five goals, tying a career high. Violante finished second with three goals, while junior Artie Bartholomew notched five points on a goal and team-best three assists.
Kindness is Found at Home
The road was not very kind to the Quakers during the season, as Penn managed just one victory away from Philadelphia, going 1-5-2 overall. In away games, the Red and Blue was outscored by opponents 11-7 and outshot 41-25. But in the friendly confines of Rhodes Field it was a different story. The Quakers went 5-3-0 at home, four of which were shutouts.
Four Quakers earned All-Ivy League accolades with senior Erik Hallenbeck leading the way with his third first-team selection. Junior John Rhodesearned second-team status, while Maier and Kroculick received and honorable mention for All-Ivy.
Also recognized his efforts both on and off the field was Cepero, who garnered second-team CoSIDA Academic All-District II status. The Baldwin, N.Y. native did not miss a second of action, starting all 17 games. He finished the season with 87 saves, good for the Ivy League lead, six shutouts, second-best in the League, and a fourth-best 1.25 GAA in more than 1580 minutes of action.
Despite losing eight student-athletes and the core of the defensive backs, the future looks promising for the Quakers. The Red and Blue will field a group of talented student-athletes that gained valuable experience over the course of 2004.
-Written by Kelly McCarthy, athletic communications assistant.