PHILADELPHIA - With junior Natalie Capuano sitting on the sidelines for Friday afternoon's match against La Salle, Penn women's soccer coach Darren Ambrose knew he was going to need superb efforts from a lot of other players in order to defeat the Explorers.
He got that, especially a sublime performance from sophomore Jess Rothenheber, and the Quakers rolled to a 3-1 victory at Rhodes Field.
Rothenheber seemed to be everywhere Friday, whether it was getting shots on goalor setting up her teammates, as she had two goals and an assist on the day.
"We had a lot of adversity coming into this game," said Ambrose. "We were missing Nat, and a lot of other players simply are not that healthy right now. I have to give a lot of credit to the women, they were outstanding given the circumstances.
"Jess has been playing like that in spurts, but she was magnificent all day today," he continued. "Every time she touched the ball, something good happened. She knew she had to step up her role, with Nat out, and we asked her to be more of a two-way player today. She simply controlled this game."
The Quakers were buzzing from the start, although La Salle nearly scored the first goal when Penn goalkeeper Cailly Carroll was nearly caught off her line by a long Explorer shot. However, Carroll was able to geta hand on it and push it off the crossbar.
Just a few minutes later, Rothenheber struck.
A ball was crossed from the right side by Jessica Fuccello, sailing over everyone's heads in front. Rothenheber, running in from the top of the box, one-timed a left-footed shot that froze La Salle goalkeeper Lauren Malizia, looped into the far corner and found the side netting for a 1-0 lead.
Penn nearly made it 2-0 just a few minutes later when Fuccello toe-poked a ball that curled around Malizia but bounced off the post. In the ensuing scramble, Rothenheber got another chance, but Malizia came up with the save.
The Quakers doubled their lead in the 35th minute, due to a La Salle error. Rothenheber sent a ball toward goal, and a miscommunication between the Explorer defense and the goalkeeper caused the ball to be headed in by a defender.
In the second half, Rothenheber slid a beautiful pass onto the feet of junior Ellen Gregory, who received the ball all alone at the top of the box, turned and pushed a shot past the onrushing Malizia for a 3-0 lead.
La Salle was able to cut into the lead in the 73rd minute when Lauren Cittadino finished a scramble in front of the Penn goal.
Penn outshot La Salle, 15-10, and forced Malizia to make seven saves. At the other end, Carroll -- making her first start since being injured early in the season -- had four stops in getting the win.
"This win today means a lot," he continued. "I think, on paper, we were the favorites going into this game, but La Salle is a good side, and this was a city game, and they felt like they could come in here and beat us. That is a tough position to be in. Fortunately, our players responded with a great performance today."
Penn is back in action Sunday, playing another city rival in Villanova. The Wildcats are ranked eighth in the Mid-Atlantic Region by the NSCAA.
"We are going into that match as confident as we could be," said Ambrose. "We are scoring goals, and at the other end we are giving teams few opportunities. I am looking forward to a great match Sunday."
Kickoff is 3 p.m. at Villanova.