Penn opens the 2010 campaign with Towson University Friday at 7 p.m. on Rhodes Field; on Sunday, the Red and Blue entertain Villanova at 7:30 in the second half of a soccer doubleheader at Rhodes. (The men open the doubleheader with La Salle at 5 p.m.)
Penn head coach Darren Ambrose acknowledges that these first two tests, on paper, do not suit his team.
"This is always a tough situation, because both of our opponents have played already and we do not have any matches under our belt yet," he said. "You cannot get match fit until you play matches, and we jump right into it with two of them this weekend. That said, I think we have a lot of talent and enough depth that a lot of people will see minutes this weekend. Very few if any of our players are ready to go 90 minutes twice in a weekend, so we will make a lot of subs and give a lot of people an opportunity to play."
The Series with Towson: Friday's game will be just the second between the Quakers and the Tigers, and the first since the 1992 season. Penn won that game, 3-1.
About Towson: The Tigers (1-1-1) enter their third weekend of play, compared to Penn which will be opening its season. After beginning the season with a 3-2 loss to Loyola (Md.) on August 21, Towson gained a tie and a win last weekend at the Duquesne Classic in Pittsburgh. Towson tied Saint Louis, 0-0, before beating host Duquesne, 2-1. Kaysi Ward scored both goals in the opener, while Emily Banes and Cheyenne Skidmore had the goals in TU's win last weekend. In goal, Jocelyn Papciak has played every minute; she has a 1.29 goal-against average.
The Series with Villanova: The Quakers and the Wildcats have met 12 times previously, and Villanova has dominated the series with 11 wins and a draw (in 1996). The last meeting came in 2008 at Rhodes Field; in that game, Penn was up 2-0 but Villanova stormed back with three goals in the final 30 minutes for the victory.
About Villanova: The Wildcats (2-2-0) played Georgetown on Wednesday in their Big East opener and lost to the Hoyas, 3-1. Prior to that, Villanova split a pair of matches at the JMU/Comfort Inn Classic hosted by James Madison last weekend. Sophomore Heidi Sabatura scored late in last Friday's 2-1 win over VCU, but the 'Cats were shut out on Sunday, 1-0, by the host Dukes. Villanova opened with a 4-2 win over Temple. Heidi Sabatura and Katie Ryan lead 'Nova in scoring, with three goals apiece.
*The Quakers return seven of 11 starters and 15 letterwinners from a team that went 10-4-2 overall last year. (That record was best among the Ivy League programs in 2009.)
*Penn went 4-3-0 in the Ivy League and tied for third place; the Quakers' last title came in 2007, when the four current seniors -- Kaitlin Campbell, Sarah Friedman, Kristin Kaiser, Marisa Schoen -- were freshmen.
* Friedman, a first-team All-Ivy pick in 2008 and second-team a year ago, needs four assists to become the program's all-time leader. She enters 2010 with 22.
*Junior Marin McDermott is the team's leading returning scorer; she had six goals in 2009. McDermott has earned All-Ivy each year she has been at Penn.
*The defense will be anchored by two of Penn's three captains, Campbell and Schoen. (The other captain is Kaiser.) Campbell -- an honorable mention All-Ivy player in 2009 -- enters 2010 having started 50 of Penn's last 51 games, while Schoen has 42 career starts.
*Among the returning players, only junior Theresa Yankovich joins the captains, McDermott and Friedman as a field player who started more than 10 matches last year. She had 11 starts.
*Caroline Williams played in 15 of Penn's 16 matches as goalkeeper last year, making 12 starts. She had a 1.07 goals-against average and made 55 saves in 1,258 minutes between the pipes.
*The biggest question mark? Who will pick up the goals left behind by Jessica Fuccello. The senior, who is playing this season as a graduate student at Rutgers, scored 16 goals in 2009 and 36 in her three-plus years at Penn. (She played just two games in 2008 due to injury.) In fact, three of Penn's top four scorers from last year have departed.
Quoting Head Coach Darren Ambrose
"This is always a tough situation, because both of our opponents have played already and we do not have any matches under our belt yet. You cannot get match fit until you play matches, and we jump right into it with two of them this weekend."
"The preseason has gone well, the team came in at a good fitness level and we have been able to progress. The newcomers have gotten themselves into the fray a bit, and the seniors have shown great leadership. That said, the players are excited to play someone other than each other."
"Towson is off to a good start this season, and I expect them to come in here and battle us. Villanova is a Big East program that has been one of the region's better teams the last several years, so we know the test that they provide. It's a daunting way to start the season."