When sophomore Daniel Cepero stepped in goal this fall, he knew he had enormous shoes to fill. Once All-American goalkeeper Matt Haefner departed for a career with the Columbus Crew, Cepero won the coveted starting spot over more experienced teammates in a grueling competition that began even before the first official Quaker game. During that time, Cepero says he worked hard, keeping in mind that whoever won the starting spot out of the three goalkeepers in contention would be the right person for the role.
The pressure to take over where Haefner left off was evident before the season even began.
“In the preseason, the expectations were already high, for both me and the team,” Cepero said. Last year, he said his goal as a player and teammate was to help Haefner to achieve his full potential. This year, his role has changed, and now, in the midst of the season,
Cepero has settled into his role as a starter and team leader.
“I had high aspirations, and it has been great for things to work out so far,” he said.
Playing in three games last seaspn, Cepero was still able to gain some valuable experience. As a freshman, he went 2-1, including one shutout. His 0.33 shutouts per game tied him for ninth in the League. This season, Cepero’s performance indicates his ability to build on his previous success. Starting all nine games, Cepero has made 33 saves and posts a 0.84 goals against average to sit atop the Ivy League.
Cepero realizes how important team chemistry is to propelling the Quakers forward as the season moves on. He knows how important it is for his teammates to trust him, and plans to build that trust throughout the season with every strong performance he turns in.
“I was not as experienced when we started this fall, but now, in this full-fledged starter role, getting experience is key,” he said. “It is important to have people trust you and know that you’re reliable when the game is on the line. It is about knowing the people around you and then developing the chemistry with your teammates.”
Prior to this point, Cepero had never thought himself able to achieve success at the height of Penn soccer, though he had always aspired to play at the collegiate level.
“The experience has been mind-blowing. I'm enjoying myself and having fun.”
In the 100th year of Penn soccer, Cepero adds that he feels proud to be “carrying on the tradition of Penn soccer" and hopes this season will “mark something big for the program.” The team has challenging work ahead, as it enters the heart of the Ivy season and hunt for the championship title.
Cepero remains optimistic and cautious when he thinks about the rest of the season.
“I try to stay focused on each game as it comes and not overlook any of them. They are all important.”
He says he is aware of the potential of the team and how far the Quakers can go this season. In the meantime, he plans on keeping his team competitive by “maintaining a level of consistency and making the little saves, focusing on the little things, paying attention to details.”
That done, Cepero says, “I will contribute to the success of this team.”
~ Written by Kim Parker, in the Oct. 9 Game Day Program.