PHILADELPHIA - University of Pennsylvania women’s soccer coach Darren Ambrose was succinct when describing the early part of Friday night’s match with UNC-Greensboro, the Quakers’ first on the road this season.
“For the first five minutes, we were still on the bus,” he said simply.
After a day-long drive down to North Carolina on Thursday, and having to wait around all day before the 7 p.m. kickoff, perhaps it was understandable that the young Quakers would be slow getting off the mark. However, after almost being undone by that slow start, Penn showed great character and composure in gaining a 3-2 victory.
Penn (3-0-1) was down 2-0 before the match was five minutes old. However, the Quakers got one back midway through the first half, followed up with a goal early in the second half, and completed the comeback in the 72nd minute when freshman Jessica Fuccello made her first collegiate goal a memorable one --she headed home a corner kick from senior Tracy Bienenfeld for the winner.
“It was a great comeback,” said Ambrose. “We showed a lot of character. We played good soccer most of the way, and we were rewarded in the end. What pleased me the most was that they suffered the early setbacks, but they responded positively and did not panic.”
Penn’s final goal proved to be role reversal from the Quakers’ second goal, which also came off a set piece. In that case, Fuccello flicked a header on to Bienenfeld, who fired a headball into the back of the net for her second goal in as many matches.
UNCG (1-7-0) flew out to the 2-0 lead thanks to a scorching goal by Shannon Donovan from 20 yards out, followed less than a minute later when Karla Davis crossed a ball that Deven Beachum sent on to Jessie Jay for the easy tally.
“We knew that UNC-Greensboro was a better team than their record would indicate,” said Ambrose. “We knew that they would capitalize on any mistakes we might make, and they did that twice early.”
Junior Rachel Fletcher got the Quakers got one of those goals back in the 23rd minute, scoring a goal similar to the one she had last weekend against Richmond. Assists on Friday night’s tally went to senior Megan Boys and freshman Mara Fintzi.
“After we got our legs under us, we really seemed to gain control the match,” said Ambrose. “We had some other good chances, but we were rewarded with Rachel’s goal before half, and then we got the second one early in the second to get us going.”
Penn outshot UNCG, 13-11, and had six corner kicks to the Spartans’ two. In the Penn goal, freshman Cailly Carroll got the win, coming up with three saves. At the other end, Katherine Ryan had six stops for UNCG.
Penn is back in action Sunday afternoon, taking on East Carolina at 1 p.m.