PHILADELPHIA - The Penn women’s soccer team kicks off its regular-season finale at Harvard’s Ohiri Field Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. with all of its business taken care of -- at least on the surface.
Ivy League title? Check. That was clinched last Saturday night, when freshman Kristin Kaiser’s overtime goal gave the Quakers a 1-0 win over Princeton and their second-ever crown.
NCAA College Cup bid? Check. That was guaranteed Sunday afternoon, when Yale beat Brown 3-1 in New Haven, Conn. On Monday night at 8 p.m., the Quakers will find out their fate in the 64-team playoff when the draw is announced on ESPNews.
Still, head coach Darren Ambrose has an ace in his hand that he can use to motivate his young charges for this final match.
“This team has the chance to do something no other Penn women’s soccer team has ever done -- win an Ivy title outright,” he said. “Our goal is to be able to finish on top and not share the championship with anyone, like we did in 2001. You strive to be the best, and that is what Saturday’s match is about for us.
“We have had a great season, no doubt,” he continued. “Early in the week, I think our players were suffering a little bit from the celebration, there was a bit of a hangover in practice. However, as the week has progressed we have picked it up, and I think that when game time comes Saturday they will be ready to go. This is a competitive group, and they want to win this game.”
When he looks at Harvard, Ambrose sees a team similar to his -- after struggling a bit in 2006, the Crimson are 10-5-1 overall and 3-3-0 in the Ivy League this season. They were bounced from the Ivy title chase only last weekend, but Ambrose does not expect them to roll over as a result.
“I expect an all-out attempt by Harvard to win this game,” he said. “It will be their Senior Day, and anytime you are the visiting team for a game like that you know you are going to face a team playing with a lot of emotion.
“In addition, we now have a target on our backs,” he continued. “Harvard no doubt feels it can prove a point by beating us. It is a new position for our team to be in, so it will be interesting to see how we respond to it.”
Some notes entering the weekend...
Penn and Harvard will kick off Saturday for the 17th meeting in women’s soccer; the Crimson have dominated the series, and hold a 12-2-2 lead.
These two teams actually began the Ivy League season with each other in 2006, with Harvard winning 2-1 in Philadelphia. The last time the Quakers and Crimson played each other in Cambridge, 110 minutes could not settle things as they played a scoreless draw.
At 12-3-1 overall, Penn has the fourth-most wins in a season in program history. Only the 1997 (14), 1999 (13) and 2001 (13) teams have more.
Penn is 5-1-0 in the Ivy League; regardless of what happens this weekend, the Quakers have clinched a share of their second Ivy title (the other came in 2001). However, a win or a tie would give Penn its first outright championship.
Penn has also clinched the Ivy League’s automatic bid into the NCAA College Cup; it will be the Quakers’ third appearance in the national championship tournament, with the others coming in 1999 and 2001.
Penn has won seven of its last eight matches. Prior to a loss at Brown, the Quakers tied a school record for consecutive wins in a season with six.
After playing just one overtime match in its first 14 games, the Quakers have played back-to-back overtime contests.
With 34 goals to date, Penn has matched the 1999 team for goals in a season. Only the 1998 (42) and 2001 (39) teams scored more goals in a campaign.
Penn leads the Ivy League in overall goals (34), assists (31) and points (99).
You want to beat Penn this season? Only one ingredient has worked to date: shut them out. The Quakers are 12-0-1 when they score at least one goal, 0-3-0 when they do not.
At the other end, Penn has allowed just 13 goals; the only team in the Ivies that has allowed fewer goals is Saturday’s opponent, Harvard (12).
Penn’s +21 goal differential this season (34-13) is surpassed only by 1998 (42-15, +27) and 2001 (39-13, +26).
In Ivy play, Penn has allowed just four goals in six matches, giving the Quakers the lowest goals-against average in the League (0.64).
Sophomore Jessica Fuccello has been held scoreless the last two matches, after a five-match goalscoring streak; all of the goals during that streak were Penn’s first in those matches.
Despite the “drought,” Fuccello continues to lead the Ivy League in overall goals (10) and points (24). Her 10 goals -- which have come in nine different games -- tie her for sixth on Penn’s all-time single-season list (with Rachelle Snyder in 2001), and her 24 points put her alone in sixth in that category.
Fuccello has 19 goals for her short collegiate career. Believe it or not, that already places her in a tie for fifth on Penn’s all-time list, with Carolyn Cross and Kellianne Toland.
Sophomore Jess Rothenheber, meanwhile, is tied for tops among Ivy players in assists (8) and is fourth in points (18). With eight assists this season, she is third on Penn’s single-season list.
Sophomore Mara Fintzi is fourth among Ivy players in overall assists (6) and tied for seventh in overall points (14). Fintzi’s assist total is good for eighth on Penn’s all-time single-season list.
Junior Molly Weir is tied for seventh in overall assists (4) and tied for 10th in overall points (12).
Harvard (10-5-1, 3-3-0) had its dreams of getting a share of the Ivy title dashed last weekend, when the Crimson fell at Columbia, 2-1.
Offensively, the Crimson is led by Katherine Sheeleigh, who leads the Ivies in overall shots (78) and is third in overall goals (8). Teammate Gina Wideroff has five goals and 12 points.
At the other end, Lauren Mann has a League-leading nine shutouts and is second in the conference with 72 saves.