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PHILADELPHIA – The seven-match chase for an Ivy League championship begins on Saturday for the Quakers as Penn hosts defending Ancient Eight champion Cornell at Rhodes Field for a 7 p.m. start.
Saturday’s match will be the 108th all-time between the Quakers and Big Red on the pitch, Penn holding a 63-32-12 advantage in the all-time series. The last ten meetings have been pretty much evenly split as the Quakers possess a slight 5-4-1 lead in the last decade of the Penn-Cornell rivalry. Saturday night marks the sixth consecutive year that Penn and Cornell have played in the opening weekend of Ivy League play, each team owning two wins with one draw added on over the previous five seasons.
The Red and Blue had one last crack at securing some momentum before League play began with a non-conference match against Drexel on Wednesday night. The Quakers capitalized on the opportunity, slaying the Dragons, 3-2, at Rhodes Field.
Sam Hayward scored twice in the second half, each time giving Penn a two-goal lead. He enters the weekend tied for the team lead in goals scored with Duke Lacroix, each netting four goals. That number is also good for a tie atop the Ivy League scoring list, Penn with two of five players to score four goals to this point in the season. Of the group, Hayward is the lone freshman and the lone player who sees the majority of his time off the bench.
Penn has the top offense in the Ivy League entering Ancient Eight play, with 16 total goals scored – three more than Columbia which ranks second. Cornell is tied for fifth among Ivy teams with 10 goals scored over eight matches.
Fans at Rhodes Field on Saturday are likely to see plenty of offensive chances as the Ivy League’s top two teams in terms of shots taken are set to meet. Penn has taken a League-high 120 shots over nine matches, averaging 13.3 shots-per-match. Cornell is right behind, with 117 shots fired over its nine matches (13.0) to start the season.
Penn’s dynamic attack group will need to solve the League’s top defensive unit if the Quakers are to emerge with a win. Cornell has been beyond stingy when it comes to conceding goals in 2013, allowing five goals over 871:52 of game play – posting a goals-against average of 0.52. Cornell has posted four clean sheets this season, including a stretch of three in a row from Sept. 18-24.
In its last match, the Big Red finally conceded a goal in a 1-0 loss to Niagara. The Purple Eagles scored in the 48’, ending a run of 446:59 without a goal allowed for Cornell. The loss also snapped a 25-match non-conference winning streak for Cornell which dated back to September of 2011. Cornell has not lost back-to-back games since Oct. 30-Nov. 6, 2010 – a span of 43 matches.
With 2012 Ivy League Player of the Year Daniel Haber and his 18 goals from last season graduated, the Big Red has had to look to new avenues for scoring this season. Two-time first-team All-Ivy defender Patrick Slogic has done his part, with two goals and two assists to tie for the team lead in scoring with six points. Fellow defender Jake Rinow has matched Slogic along the way, also entering the weekend with six points on two goals and two assists. Junior midfielder Conor Goepl has been the main weapon from outside the back line, netting two goals and an assist. He had 14 points last season.
In goal, Zach Zagorski is 5-0-1 with a 0.62 goals-against average. He has allowed just four goals over 581:51 minutes of play, making 17 saves (.810 save percentage) to go with two shutouts.