PHILADELPHIAThe Penn men’s soccer team (2-4-2) will travel to Columbia Saturday to kick off the Ivy League season after battling its way through a rough non-conference slate.
After starting the season with five losses, the Lions (2-5-1) have turned things around with a tie and two wins in their most recent outings.
The Red and Blue also pulled together to put a second tally in the win column with a decisive 4-0 win against city rival Saint Joseph’s last Saturday. The win also snapped a three-game winless streak during which they played nearly 60 extra minutes of soccer.
Prior to the SJU game, the Quakers had struggled to finish their chances, despite creating many opportunities. When Penn has scored, it has been a team effort with just two unassisted goals. Junior Alex Grendi leads the team and the Ivy League with five assists this season. Andrew Ferry jumped to the front of the Quaker offense with two goals against SJU and now leads the team’s goal production with three.
Columbia’s side has suffered in its offensive third, as well. The Lions have been shut out in four matches, and scored just one goal in each of the other four outings this season. However, the one goal was all the Lions needed in their two most recent matches in which they claimed 1-0 wins. Newcomer Hayden Johns holds most of Columbia’s points with two goals and an assist.
On defense, Penn has locked down the back third with an experienced backline including two senior captains, Jeffrey Livingston and Keith Vereb, as well as hard-working juniors John Elicker, Ryan Porch and Alex Fairman. In goal, Penn has looked to junior Drew Healy as the starter in six contests, making 28 saves in that time.
The Lions have stonewalled their last three opponents with senior goalkeeper Michael Testa running a 305-minute shutout streak.
The Quakers hold a 29-26-5 all-time lead over the Lions and have won the last three meetings. In the most recent match, Penn beat Columbia in a 1-0 double-overtime contest. Then-sophomore Kevin Unger finally put Penn on top with a score in the 108th minute. It was the second time in as many meetings that Columbia was foiled in overtime. In 2005, then-freshman Mike Klein scored in the 99th minute in a rainy and muddy outing at Columbia.
Fans can follow the match from home with live stats by clicking here. The Penn Athletics Communications in-game blog will not appear for this match, but will return for Penn’s home contest vs. American, Oct. 9.