PHILADELPHIA - The Penn women’s soccer team heads into its first Ivy League match boasting a 5-2-1 record, tied for best among the eight Ivy institutions along with Harvard.
However, the Quakers know that the non-conference slate means nothing when it comes to League play.
“I think the playersremember last year, and they are still a little bitter about it,” said head coach Darren Ambrose, noting the Quakers’ 1-4-2 Ivy mark a year ago. “I think that will help us. It is a fine line between success and failure in this league, and we were a great example of that last year. I think we learned from that experience.”
Penn’s Ivy League record last year was certainly deceptive -- three of the four losses came by a goal, including 1-0 decisions against the Ivy champion (Columbia) and runner-up (Dartmouth). In addition, the women gained ties against the teams that finished third (Brown) and fourth (Yale) in the League.
With that in mind, what can be surmised is that this group can play with anyone in the League. That said, on any given day they can also be had. So Friday’s match with Cornell -- the only team to finish behind the Quakers in the standings last year, and the only Ivy team Penn beat in 2006 -- is a good one with regard to setting a tone for the upcoming title chase.
The Big Red arrives Friday at Rhodes Field with a 4-4-0 record, most recently splitting a pair of overtime matches last weekend with Niagara (a 2-1 win) and Bucknell (a 1-0 loss). Cornell has certainly developed a pattern this season, going unbeaten at home but winless on the road. The Big Red is led by the Ivy League’s leading point-getter, Lena Russomagno (16 points in eight matches).
Following Friday’s match, the women go out of conference one final time Sunday afternoon, traveling to Ewing, N.J. to take on Rider. The Broncs are 3-2-3 overall, moving over .500 for the season with a 3-2 win over Saint Joseph’s Tuesday afternoon.
Some notes heading into the weekend...
Penn and Cornell meet Friday for the 18th time in women’s soccer; the Quakers hold a 9-6-2 lead in the series, but have gone a scintillating 9-0-1 in their last 10 meetings with the Big Red.
Penn and Rider have played each other just twice in women’s soccer, with the Quakers winning both matches. The most recent meeting took place Sept. 4, 2005, with Penn earning a 2-1 victory.
Penn had an up-and-down weekend against city rivals La Salle and Villanova last weekend, defeating the Explorers at Rhodes Field, 3-1, but getting shut down by the Wildcats out on the Main Line, 4-0.
Sophomore Jess Rothenheber led the charge against La Salle, scoring two goals and dishing the assist on junior Ellen Gregory’s goal. For her efforts, Rothenheber earned a spot on the Ivy League’s weekly honor roll.
Penn has already scored 20 goals this season (compared to 24 in all of 2006); not surprisingly, the Quakers lead the Ivy League in goals, assists and points per game.
Penn has scored nearly twice as many goals as every other team in the Ivies; Columbia and Cornell are tied for second in the League, with 12 apiece, followed by Harvard with 11.
By allowing four goals last Sunday at Villanova, the Quakers fell to third in the league in goals-against average (1.09).
Jessica Fuccello, a sophomore, has scored five times already this season, giving her 14 goals for her short collegiate career. Believe it or not, that actually places her in a tie for ninth place on Penn’s all-time goalscoring list, along with Yuka Morita (1993-96) and Heather Taylor (1999-2002). She is second among Ivy players in goals-per-game average (0.62).
Friday’s match actually features the three leading point producers in the Ivy League to date. Cornell’s Lena Russomagno is first with 14 points (1.75 per game), followed by Fuccello (12 points, 1.50 per game) and then Rothenheber (11 points, 1.38 per game).
Sophomore Cailly Carroll got the start in both matches last weekend, and went the whole way in both contests. She had four saves against both La Salle and Villanova.
If Friday’s match with Cornell goes to overtime, Penn may want to keep an eye on Cornell’s Natalie Zandt -- two of her three goals this season have been OT match-winners.