PHILADELPHIA - After a successful opening weekend, the Penn women’s soccer team hopes to keep it going this weekend with two more matches at Rhodes Field. The Quakers host Michigan State Friday night (7 p.m.), then renew a city rivalry with Saint Joseph’s Sunday afternoon (1 p.m.).
The focus this week, as it was last week, will be managing the matches. With depleted numbers, and another weekend doubleheader on tap, the Quakers will have to get the most out of their resources if they are to maintain this early-season win streak.
“Overall, I think we are in a good spot,” said head coach Darren Ambrose. “Obviously we have injuries that we cannot control, but so far so good in terms of our on-field performance. We have two more chances to test ourselves this weekend, but we need to be smart about how we use our energy -- there are going to be times where we sit back, and other times where we need to be the aggressor and attack.
“When we put together our early-season schedule, we tried to do the Friday/Sunday matches for a few reasons,” he said. “One was to keep the kids from missing too much class time -- by going Fridays and Sundays, you avoid midweek matches. With that in mind, the environment is completely different. The women can focus on the soccer.”
Michigan State, out of the Big Ten Conference, arrives in Philadelphia with a 1-1-0 record. The Spartans hosted BYU and Syracuse last weekend at Old College Field in East Lansing, falling to the Cougars in overtime and then defeating the Orange. MSU’s Lauren Sinacola was named the Big Ten’s Co-Offensive Player of the Week after scoring both Spartan goals in their 2-1 win against Syracuse Sunday.
“Michigan State is vastly improved from the last couple of years,” said Ambrose. “I think they will be a handful, they are athletic. This will be another chance to see how much pressure we can withstand from a good team, and how much we can attack a team of this level. I think it will have the feel of an Ivy League game.”
Saint Joseph’s, meanwhile, had an up-and-down weekend to start the season, winning its opener, 1-0, over Drexel before getting pounded by Delaware, 7-0. Freshman Carly Salter was the goalscorer in SJU’s win.
“I am good friends with the coaches over there, and I know they will have their kids ready to go,” said Ambrose. “City games are always battles, and I expect Sunday to be no different.”
Some notes heading into the weekend...
Friday’s match between Penn and Michigan State will mark the first meeting between the programs.
Sunday’s match between Penn and Saint Joseph’s will be just the second between these city rivals; Penn won the only previous meeting, 3-0, during the 2001 season. Coincidentally, that was the only year that Penn won the Ivy League championship.
Penn is looking to remain undefeated through four matches for the second-consecutive season. Last year the Quakers went unbeaten through their first five matches (4-0-1).
The last time Penn started a season 4-0-0 was 1998, when the Quakers actually began the campaign 5-0-0, and then 6-0-1 before taking their first loss.
The Quakers are coming off a 2-0 weekend over Labor Day, as they defeated Saint Louis, 1-0, and Robert Morris, 4-1.
The season-opening win over SLU was particularly noteworthy, as the Billikens came to Rhodes Field off a 15-4-0 season in 2006, and had advanced to the NCAA College Cup second round each of the last two years.
Sophomore Jessica Fuccello and freshman Kaitlin Campbell swept the Ivy League awards this week, as Fuccello was Player of the Week and Campbell was Rookie of the Week. Fuccello earned her honor after scoring twice in Penn’s wins. Both goals proved to be match-winners, and were assisted by Campbell, who also anchored a defense that allowed just the one goal on the weekend.
Two other freshmen, Kristin Kaiser and Sarah Friedman, scored their first collegiate goals in the win over Robert Morris. Sophomore Jess Rothenheber netted the Quakers’ final tally against the Colonials, giving her three points on the season.
With classmate Sara Rose still suffering from an injury, sophomore Cailly Carroll got the start in both matches last weekend. She had three saves in collecting the clean sheet Friday night, then made three more saves against Robert Morris before giving way to freshman Gina Winters for the match’s final 11 minutes.
In both of last weekend’s matches, Penn had eight freshmen and sophomores in its starting 11.
Michigan State, out of the Big Ten Conference, arrives in Philadelphia with a 1-1-0 record. The Spartans hosted BYU and Syracuse last weekend at Old College Field in East Lansing, falling to the Cougars in overtime and then defeating the Orange.
MSU’s Lauren Sinacola was named the Big Ten’s Co-Offensive Player of the Week after scoring both Spartan goals in their 2-1 win against Syracuse Sunday.
Penn is beginning its season with four home matches. Next weekend, the Quakers finally hit the road to take on another Big Ten team, Northwestern, as well as Loyola-Chicago. The match with Loyola will be a neutral-site match that will take place at the Chicago Fire’s new stadium.