PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsyvlania women's soccer team passed its first test of 2006 when it got a tie against Rice, an NCAA team from a year ago.
The Quakers then passed their second test with flying colors, playing two games over the course of a weekend and winning both of them. That happened last weekend at Rhodes Field, against Hofstra (1-0) and Richmond (2-1 in overtime).
Now, however, comes the next daunting step for a team that is still young and inexperienced in the college game.
Two more games in one weekend.
This time, on the road.
The Quakers (2-0-1) not only get away from Rhodes Field this weekend, they head completely out the region. Instead, they invade the South region to face UNC-Greensboro (Friday at 7 p.m.) and East Carolina (Sunday at 1 p.m.).
"This is certainly a tough weekend we have ahead," said head coach Darren Ambrose. "We will have a long day of travel, and we are facing a pair of tough opponents. Greensboro has a poor record, but they have playeda very tough schedule and will be hungry for a win against us. And I expect East Carolina to be a blue-collar team playing with a lot of emotion; they have some quality wins already this year.
"We wanted to get out of our region and see how we would fare against a pair of teams that, on paper, I think we match up with," he continued. "Like us, they may not be schools that you automatically think of when you think about national powers, but they are quietly ranked within their region year in and year out. They will be two great and tough matches for us, but we are looking to get two resultsfrom this trip."
UNC-Greensboro (1-6-0) had a hard-luck loss most recently, dropping a 1-0 decision to No. 11 Wake Forest. Ambrose isn't lying when he says the Spartans' schedule has been brutal --four of their six losses have come to teamsranked in this week's coaches poll, and they played another ranked team (Duke) in a preseason exhibition.
This will mark the second meeting between Penn and UNCG; the first took place in 2003 at Princeton, and ended in a 3-3 draw.
Sunday's match, meanwhile, comes against an East Carolina team that is 4-2-0 despite playing five of its six matches to date on the road. The Pirates are home twice this weekend for Parent's Weekend, and figure to have good crowds on hand for both of their matches.
Like UNCG, Penn is meeting ECU for just the second time in the program's history. The first came in 1998 -- also a neutral-site match, this time at the University of Delaware -- and the Quakers took a 2-0 decision.
"You can say that these are unfamiliar and non-traditional opponents for our program," said Ambrose, whose youthful team is ranked 13th in the Mid-Atlantic Region by SoccerBuzz.com this week. "However, the fact is we have 10 freshmen and a lot of them are playing. No opponent we play will be familiar to them."