PHILADELPHIA - Could the Penn women’s soccer team be peaking at the right time? That has been the goal all along, and it certainly looks like the Quakers might be hitting their stride. Following Wednesday night’s 4-2 win over Saint Joseph’s, Penn rides to Ithaca, N.Y. this weekend to face Cornell with a three-match win streak.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Cornell’s Berman Field, and is the second half of a doubleheader that begins with the Penn and Cornell men meeting at 4:30 p.m.
The Penn women had put together a two-match shutout streak before Wednesday, but saw that end after just more than 200 minutes when the Hawks struck. Nevertheless, the Quakers’ offense has racked up nine goals in the last three matches, and outshot SJU 23-7 Wednesday night with a 15-2 edge in shots on goal.
The Series With Cornell
After losing the first six matches in this series from 1991-96, Penn has reeled off an 11-match unbeaten streak (10-0-1) against Cornell and enters Saturday night’s match with nine straight wins. Adding to that, the Quakers have shut the Big Red out in each of the last four meetings, including 1-0 decisions the last two years. The Quakers have won four in a row in Ithaca, and prior to those four wins they tied the Big Red in 1998.
Elsewhere in the League
All eight teams will play Saturday, with four conference matches on tap. Yale (0-1-0) and Harvard (0-1-0) begin the day at 11:30 a.m. in Cambridge, with Dartmouth (0-1-0) at Princeton (1-0-0) kicking off at 1 p.m. Just like Penn (1-0-0) and Cornell (0-1-0), so are Columbia (1-0-0) and Brown (1-0-0) kicking off at 7 p.m. Saturday, with their meeting taking place in Providence.
Penn took two leads, gave both of them back to Saint Joseph’s, but put home two goals in the final 25 minutes to dispatch the pesky Hawks, 4-2, Wednesday night in a non-league match. Sophomore Sarah Friedman, who had been held without a point in three of the Quakers’ last four matches, scored a goal and had two assists.
Friedman continues to lead Penn in scoring, with three goals and nine assists. She has figured in 12 of the Quakers’ 20 goals this season.
With Penn reaching the midway point of its season on Wednesday, Friedman’s nine assists already have her tied for second place on Penn’s single-season list and one shy of the school record (10, set by Katy Cross in 2001).
Just nine matches into her sophomore year, Friedman has 14 career assists which ties her for sixth on Penn’s all-time list (with Kelly Stevens, 1995-98).
Even before her performance against SJU, Friedman entered the week leading all Ivy League players in assists per game (0.88) and was tied for third in points per game (1.38).
Senior Natalie Capuano -- a candidate for the prestigious Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award -- netted her team-leading fourth goal of the season Wednesday night; that is a high for her since she scored five her freshman year.
Capuano now has 14 career goals which is tied for 10th on the program’s all-time list (with Yuka Morita, 1993-96, and Heather Taylor, 1999-2002).
Penn has six players with more than one goal this season -- in addition to Capuano and Friedman, there is freshman Ursula Lopez-Palm and sophomore Kristin Kaiser with three apiece, while senior Molly Weir and freshman Marin McDermott have two each. Both Weir and Lopez-Palm also scored Wednesday night, providing the winning margin with their goals.
On Monday, Kaiser was named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her efforts in wins against UMBC and Harvard. It marks the second time the sophomore has been honored by the league office during her career. Kaiser also scored a goal midweek vs. UMBC.
On Tuesday, Kaiser was named to the SoccerBuzz.com National Elite Team of the Week; she is the first Penn player to be recognized on that squad since Capuano a year ago.
Weir entered the week third among Ivy player with 0.62 assists per game, while Kaiser and Capuano were tied for seventh in goals per game (0.38).
Junior Sara Rose has been between the pipes for each of the last three matches, allowing just two goals in that span and lowering her goals-against average to 1.19; she is tied for first among Ivy goalies with three shutouts.
The Big Red (1-6-1, 0-1-0 Ivy) have struggled this season, going winless since a 4-1 win over Oakland University to start the season. Last weekend, Cornell lost its Ivy League opener to Columbia, 3-1, and then fell to Colgate on a late Raider goal, 3-2. Lena Russomagno, Brook Chang and Cristina Law have all scored twice this season, while Jodi Palmer has played the majority of minutes in goal and has a 1.84 goals-against average. She made nine saves against Columbia last weekend.
Quoting Head Coach Darren Ambrose
“Cornell doesn’t have the results so far this season, but they are at home and they have some good young players and they have a coach who will do a good job of motivating them for this game. I expect them to come out and scrap and fight for everything, and we will have a tough match on our hands.”
“We have a lot of people who have been contributing on offense, which has been great. We knew we were going to have some depth, and it has really stepped with Jessica Fuccello and Jess Rothenheber missing so much time. Everyone is chipping in, and that has allowed us to spread the scoring around. We have been scoring goals in bunches.”
“Defensively, we were disappointed in the goals we had been allowing, and so we made a conscious effort to stop set pieces and that has made a difference in recent games. I think we have taken a little more pride in our defense, and that has shown in our defense during the run of play. I am pleased with how things have gone the last three matches.”