After three weekends of Ivy League play, the Penn men's soccer team looked like it would be left for dead - an opening tie with Cornell, followed by losses to Columbia and Dartmouth, left the youthful Quakers at 0-2-1 in the League and looking up at the rest of the conference.
They have grown up. Two weekends have brought consecutive shutouts, including last week's 1-0 stunner at Brown. As a result, the Quakers are now 2-2-1 in the League, and while they are still on the outside looking in they also enter Saturday's match with Princeton knowing that another win keeps them in the hunt heading into the final weekend. It's all they can ask for.
Penn and Princeton will kick off Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on Rhodes Field, following the women's match which starts at 5 p.m.
Also in the Ivy League: With two weekends left in the season, things are still very much up for grabs in the Ivy race -- and both Penn and Princeton still figure in the mix. As the last game of the day, they will also have a good handle on where they stand when they kick off Saturday night. Harvard (3-1-1) is at the top of the table for now, but the Crimson will have their hands full at Columbia (2-3-0) Saturday at 4 p.m. At the same time, Cornell (0-2-3) will try to scuttle the Ivy hopes of Dartmouth (3-2-0) in Hanover. Brown (3-2-0) tries to stay alive at Yale (2-3-0); that game kicks off at 4:30 p.m.
The Series With Princeton: The Quakers lead the all-time series, 48-40-9; however, the Tigers have been a thorn in Penn head coach Rudy Fuller's side since he arrived in University City. His only win against them came in 2006. Last year, when Penn won a share of the Ivy League title, the teams tied 0-0.
About Princeton: The Tigers (7-5-3, 2-2-1) enter Saturday's game with the same Ivy League record and thus are in the same position - still alive. Last week Princeton was tied by Cornell, 1-1, but prior to that the Tigers pinned Harvard with its only Ivy loss this season, a 2-1 decision in Cambridge. Princeton's losses in the league came to Dartmouth (4-2) and Brown (4-2). Josh Walburn and Antoine Hoppenot lead Princeton with six goals each, while Matt Sanner and Brandon Busch have three apiece. In goal, Sean Lynch has seen most of the action; he has a 1.19 goals-against average.
*Saturday's game will mark the last home match for two Penn seniors -- defender and captain Lee Rubenstein, and forward Alex Takakuwa.
*Earlier this week, Takakuwa received ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District honors; he is now eligible for Academic All-America honors, which will be voted on and announced later this month.
*Junior Loukas Tasigianis scored Penn's goal in its 1-0 win over No. 20 Brown last weekend, the Quakers' second straight Ivy win with that score; it was his third goal this season and earned him Philadelphia Soccer Six Player of the Week honors.
*At the other end, freshman goalkeeper Garon Smith had six saves to preserve his second straight shutout; he was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week.
*Sophomore Christian Barreiro and Takakuwa have six goals apiece to lead the Quakers.
*Barreiro is also tied for the Ivy League lead with three game-winning goals this season, and is among the Ivy League leaders with 1.00 points per contest.
*Smith has started four of Penn's five Ivy League matches this season, and has lowered his goals-against average to 1.00 with his consecutive clean sheets.