In the fall of 1905, the University of Pennsylvania began a new sport on campus, one that was not only unique to the Quakers but also somewhat unfamiliar in this country. As much as Philadelphia is the birthplace of our nation, soccer was but an infant to the United States when Penn kicked off its first varsity season.
Two-thousand four marks the 100th season of Penn soccer and even though some of the playing styles have changed and the uniforms have adapted with the ever-changingtimes, the game remains essentially the same - 11 men on the field together with one driving theme - scoring more goals than the opposition.
The Quakers have experienced success throughout the past century, capturing six Ivy League titles, including two outright. The Red and Blue's first Ivy crown came in the League's inaugural season of 1955. Penn won a second title in 1962 and back-to-back championships in 1971 and 1972. In 2002, Penn took a team made up mainly of underclassmen (eight freshmen and seven sophomores) and won its first Ancient Eight crown since the 1980 season.
Those 15 student-athletes helped bring Penn soccer back to the national light and now, as juniors and seniors, that same group is ready to do battle again.
"We have the core of our team returning in 2004," commented Rudy Fuller, the James C. Gentle Head Coach of Men's Soccer. "The team from the past two seasons is essentially still intact and we need to focus our energy and efforts in order to achieve the same success we have experienced in the past. There are some holes to be filled, but we have an abundance of talented student-athletes returning and feel there is no limit to where this team can go this season."
One of the biggest holes that Fuller and the Quakers will have to fill this year is between the pipes. The loss of three-year letterwinner and All-Ivy League honoree Matt Haefner means there will be a new face in the net for Penn. The first Quaker to ever be drafted by a Major League Soccer (MLS) organization, the Columbus Crew, Haefner played 14 games in goal for the Red and Blue in 2003 with a 1.29 goals against average (GAA), 72 saves (third in the Ivy League) and three shutouts (0.21 Sho/G).
Hopefully Haefner's tenacious defense rubbed off on the trio of goalkeepers who will look to step into his vacated starting role in 2004. The longest serving of the three is junior Brett Lockwood, who served as Haefner's backup for the past two seasons and will certainly be a contender for the starting role this fall. Daniel Cepero is the only other Quaker that logged playing time last season. Cepero started three games in 2003, registering a 0.67 GAA in 270 minutes between the pipes. Then just a freshman, he went 2-1 in his three starts, including one shutout. His 0.33 shutouts per game tied for ninth in the League.
Returning to provide much-needed leadership, especially on the defensive side of the ball, is senior co-captain Erik Hallenback. A two-time All-Ivy League honoree and 2003 Philadelphia Soccer 7 (PS7) All-Star at center-back, Hallenback's maturity and consistency will be keys to providing Penn's new goalkeeper with a top-rate line of defense.
"One of Erik's biggest contributions to this program is his enthusiasm and work ethic," Fuller said. "He is very smart with and without the ball and his leadership skills come through naturally when he is on the field.”
Possible backfield partners for Hallenbeck could be junior Erik Violante or sophomore Charles Howard. Both proved to be valuable offensively last season as each netted two goals apiece and started in 11 and 16 games, respectively. Justin Estrada (Brandon, Fla.) is another name that could appear in the line up. After having a stellar freshman campaign, he was hindered with injuries last season but will look to return to the form of his rookie season.
Also adding depth to this position will be freshmen Jeff Livingston and Joshua Hoffman. Livingston is a central defender while Hoffman is more of a flanker with good passing skills, who could also prove to be useful as a midfielder. Andrew Fenwickand Brandon Harwood are also versatile student-athletes that could provide help at either the midfield or defense positions.
Unfortunately in today's world of collegiate athletics, you can not win games on defense alone. In 2003, most of the scoring came from the forward position thanks in part to senior co-captain Stephen Kroculick and David Maier. An honorable mention All-Ivy League selection a year ago, Kroculick has compiled nine goals in the past two seasons, leading the Quakers in points in 2003, along with Maier, with 11. Maier, who earned Ivy and PS7 honors in 2002, has paced Penn offensively for the past two years with 11 points in each season. Also looking to see starting time at forward alongside the duo of Kroculick and Maier will be John Rhodes who appeared in 16 games, starting 15, last season. He recorded one goal on 21 shots and added a pair of helpers for four points on the year.
"The forward position will be very strong for us this season," Fuller said. "With the bulk of our returning players being juniors and seniors, this group allows us to give teams many different looks offensively.”
Also entering into the mix at forward will be Derrick Jumper, a sophomore who had a good rookie season with two goals in nine games played. Joe Klein and Richard Brushett, who earned Academic All-District honors in 2003, will also vie for playing time. Freshman John Blackwell adds even more depth to the offensive attack. He is a hardworking attacker who has the ability to create on his own in the open field.
Straddling the center line for the Quakers in 2004 will be a group of four midfielders, all with equally important individual talents that will make the team better in the center of the field. Arthur Bartholomew was a transfer from Washington in 2003. His athletic ability and fiery style of play allowed him to start 14 games for the Quakers a year ago. Bartholomew teamed with John Abelsonin the middle during most of the season as Abelson started all 17 games for Penn. He only attempted five shots, but his abilities away from the goal are what make him an asset on the field.
"Abelson is a tempo and possession player," commented Fuller, "He is a good leader for us out on the field," Fuller commented."Bartholomew came in last season and worked really hard to get to know our style of play and I look for continued development from him this year."
Covering the outside for Penn will be Josh Duyan and Matt Waddell. Both started double-digit games in 2003 and both were able to put the ball in the back of the net with Duyan scoring a pair of goals and Waddell netting three. Waddell also added two helpers to finish the season with eight points, which ranked him third on the team in that category. Duyan proved to be valuable in winning the individual battles on the field. He has the ability to engage the opponent and either keep the offensive momentum going for Penn or create a turnover. Waddell was also a multi-threat.
"We look for Waddell to be a more consistent two-way player this season. When at his best, he can be a very dangerous player out wide for us, " said Fuller. "Duyan has been an integral part of our team for the past few seasons and I would expect nothing different from him in his last season."
Other midfield options will be Ryan Tracy and Charles Snyder, who appeared in 10 and 15 games, respectively, with Snyder registering 12 starts. Newcomer Derek Hobson could also see action as a rookie. He was highly recruited out of San Diego and is talented enough to log some minutes this fall.
In order for the Quakers to climb back into the top spot in the Ivy League, they will need to defeat teams that, as the years have progressed, have gotten closer in terms of talent, and 2004 will be no different.
"Every year the League seems to get tighter and tighter and the parity gets greater and greater," commented Fuller. "The teams that are successful will be the ones who get off to a good start and get momentum on their side. The Ivy games are very competitive because of the rivalry and tradition. Every League game feels like a Cup final."
No one knew when Penn embarked on a century of soccer in Philadelphia in 1905 that the Quakers would emerge as a force to be reckoned with due to its success in the Ivy League and in the Philadelphia Soccer 7. Just as in 1905, the Penn soccer program looks toward a new season in 2004 with the same goal it has had from day one - to continue the high level of performance that has come to be expected from the University of Pennsylvania and its student-athletes.
Written by Mat Kanan, associate director of athletic communications