Women's Soccer Hopes to Tame Lions

PHILADELPHIA - If you have seen the Penn-Columbia women’s soccer games the last few years, you can understand the frustration head coach Darren Ambrose has felt facing the Lions.

The last time the Quakers traveled to New York to face the Lions -- as they will Saturday for a 4 p.m. kickoff -- they outshot their hosts, 16-5, only to see Columbia score the game’s only goal with just 1:01 left on the clock. Last year, in an early-season tilt, the teams played a fairly even match but again Columbia emerged the victor.

Saturday’s match is the first half of a Columbia-Penn soccer doubleheader; the men’s teams will kick off afterward, at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, a still-youthful but more experienced Penn squad travels to the Columbia Soccer Stadium to face a Lions squad that is looking to defend its Ivy League championship from a year ago, when they went 6-0-1. This year, Columbia (6-2-2, 1-0-0 Ivy League) is riding an eight-match unbeaten streak, posting six shutouts and outscoring opponents 16-2 during that stretch. Last weekend, the Lions opened defense of their Ivy title with a 1-0 win over Brown.

Penn, of course, has enjoyed some early success of its own -- the Quakers are 7-2-1, with the only losses coming to Michigan State and Villanova. In addition, Penn won its Ivy opener, a 1-0 win over Cornell last weekend. Nevertheless, Ambrose knows what is needed to gain a win in this important match.

“We need composure in the final third,” he said. “Columbia is a good team, they are hard-working and they are organized, especially defensively. Keeping that in mind, I do not think we necessarily need to change the way we go about things. However, we need to make the most of our chances.

“The Ivy League season is about seven matches, not just this one -- the Ivy race doesn’t end or begin here. However, this gives us an opportunity to get a win on the road, which is a big step toward being a contender.”

For the first time this season, the Quakers will play just once on the weekend; before this, Penn had played five consecutive weekends of Friday/Sunday doubleheaders.

Some notes heading into the weekend...

* Saturday’s match will be the 16th between the Penn and Columbia women; the Quakers lead the series, 8-6-1, but the Lions have won the last two meetings by 1-0 scores.

* Penn has won two in a row entering this weekend’s match; last weekend the Quakers defeated Cornell (1-0) and Rider (2-0). Penn’s shutout streak now stands at 188:51 minutes; dating to the final goal scored in its 4-0 loss to Villanova.

* Penn has outscored its opponents 23-9 this season; the Quakers’ 23 goals nearly matches its output for all of last year (24), with seven regular-season matches still to play.

* Sophomore Jessica Fuccello is tied for the Ivy League lead in overall goals (6) and points (14).

* Fuccello now has 15 career goals, which puts her alone in eighth place on Penn’s all-time list.

* Sophomore Jess Rothenheber is third in the Ancient Eight with 13 points overall, and second in assists (5).

* Who will be in goal? Sophomore Cailly Carroll has started the last four matches and is fifth in the Ivy League in goals-against average (0.96). Classmate Sara Rose has made four starts, as well, and is fourth in GAA (0.84). Last year, they split duties against the Lions.