Box Score (PDF)
PHILADELPHIA - She's b-a-a-a-c-k.
Senior Jessica Fuccello scored 20 goals in her first two seasons at Penn, and led the Ivy Leaguewith 11goals as a sophomore in 2007 when the Quakers won the title. Last year, as a junior, Fuccello suffered an injury prior to the season and only saw limited time in two matches. In Friday's season opener against George Mason, Fuccello shook off the rust and scored a goal in Penn's 3-1 win.
On Sunday night, however, Fuccello more than announced her return to form.
Facing a La Salle team brimming with confidence (thanks to a 4-0-1 start and four consecutive shutouts), Fuccello singlehandedly destroyed the Explorers in leading Penn to a 5-2 victory at Rhodes Field.
How did she do it? Well, for starters, she was fouled in the penalty box which set up a penalty kick that her fellow senior captain Michelle Drugan converted. Then she followed that up with a goal.Then another. And then another. And stillanother.
All told, she scored four times, in the process tying a school record originally set in 2001 by Rachelle Snyder (vs. Delaware) and matched in 2003 by Katy Cross (against Lehigh). After two games in 2009, Fuccello has five goals -- nearly half of her Ivy-leading total from 2007.
Immediately following her fourth tally, with more than 15 minutes left,Fuccello was taken off by head coach Darren Ambrose to a rousing ovation by the Penn crowd. (And, maybe, the La Salle fans who were happy to see her gone)
"That was a phenomenal effort tonight," said Ambrose following the match. "I am so happy for her. Last year, I can't tell you how much we sat with her and got her through some trying times with her injuries. I know how hard she has worked to get back on the field.
"She has a determination and knows how to score goals. That is something you can't coach, it is just a natural ability."
Drugan, perhaps, summed it up more succinctly: "She is a freak."
La Salle (4-1-1) actually put Penn (2-0-0) on its heels almost immediately, scoring just 1:09 into the match when a long ball by Traci DePasquale led to a footrace between Morgan Golden and Quaker keeper Caroline Williams. Golden won it, pushing the ball past Williams about 30 yards out and staying behind a Penn defender to easily convert into the open goal.
In the 29th minute, Fuccello got the ball on the right side of the penalty box and was taken down by a La Salle defender. Drugan stepped to the spot and crushed her PK into the upper left corner, well out of the reach of Explorer goalkeeper Gabby Pakhtigian.
The Fuccello Scoring Show started in the game's 40th minute, when she took a short ball from Drugan that got in behind the La Salle defense. Fuccello then side-stepped an onrushing Pakhtigian and put it away for Penn's first lead.
Fuccello doubled the Quaker advantage in the fifth minute of the second half, finishing a nice pass from Alex Dayneka that squirted past the La Salle defense. Then, as the match approached the hour mark, a Dayneka cross from the right side slid between Fuccello and Pakhtigian. Fuccello won the race and pushed it into the far corner.
La Salle got one back in the 65th minute, when Ally Kenney sent a short cross from the right side that DePasquale re-directed past Williams. However, any momentum the Explorers had was extinguished in the 74th minute when Jess Rothenheber sent in a cross that Fuccello headed home. (Remember that combination from 2007?)
Williams made four saves in gaining the victory, which pushed Penn's lead in the series with La Salle to 13-0-1.
Penn is home two times again next weekend for a BCS weekend of sorts;the Quakershost Northwestern out of the Big Ten Friday night at 7 p.m. and Pittout of the Big East Sunday at 1 p.m.
Download: Penn02 (La Salle.pdf