Women's Soccer Set to Host Invitational

PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania women's soccer team only played its season opener Monday, but there is no rest for the weary as they come back for two more matches this weekend at the Penn Invitational Presented by Holiday Inn City Line.

The Invitational features the Quakers along with Ivy rival Princeton, Richmond and Hofstra. The action kicks off Friday afternoon at 5 p.m., when Princeton and Richmond meet; that will be followed by Penn and Hofstra at approximately 7:30 p.m.

On Sunday, Princeton and Hofstra will kick off at noon, followed by Penn and Richmond at approximately 2:30 p.m. All matches will take place on Rhodes Field.

"This weekend will be a good opportunity to see how much we've learned from our first game (a 0-0 draw with Rice), and how quickly we can improve upon what we've learned," said head coach Darren Ambrose. "After one game we have answered some questions, but there are still a lot of them, and this weekend provides us two more chances to see our team."

The opposition does not get any easier for Penn, which opened against a Rice team that has made the NCAA College Cup the last two years. Friday's opponent, Hofstra, won the Colonial Athletic Association title last year and was a College Cup participant. This year, the Pride are already 3-1-0 with the only loss coming to No.12 Connecticut in their season opener.

Sunday's opponent, Richmond, enters the weekend still looking for a win after four matches. The Spiders had hard-luck results with Rutgers and VCU and multi-goal losses to No. 9 West Virginia and James Madison.

Ambrose was optimistic after a review of Monday's draw.

"After looking at the film, we had a lot of opportunities, but I think we wore down and were not able to finish some late that, if we got them early, we might have converted," he said. "We were creating chances. On the flip side, the concern is that we gave up some opportunities, too. We need to correct some things back there, but that only comes with experience and playing together."

As for playing twice in three days, after a short preseason, Ambrose is succinct.

"We need to be efficient in our play," he said. "We have to pick our spots and make the most of them."

Noting the Penn Invitational Present by Holiday Inn City Line field...

Princeton was an NCAA College Cup semifinalist just two years ago, and are still a power within the Ivy League under 12th-year head coach Julie Shackford. Last year, the Tigers were 8-6-2 overall and went 5-2-0 in conference play. The Tigers opened up their 2006 campaign last weekend with Boston University in a game that had to be moved to a neutral site after heavy rains last weekend. BU defeated Princeton, 2-0. Princeton has some big shoes to fill with the loss of Emily Behncke, who was last year’s Ivy League Player of the Year (Princeton’s fourth in the last five years). However, a good start comes from junior Diana Matheson, a first-team All-Ivy honoree last year as a sophomore who had 17 points and is the team’s leading returning scorer. In addition, Princeton’s freshman class was rated the best in the Ivy League by Soccer Buzz during the preseason.Maren Dale got the start in goal against BU last weekend.

Like Princeton and Penn, Richmond is still looking for its first win of the 2006 season. Unlike those teams, the Spiders have already played four times.The most recent loss came Tuesday, when Richmond fell to James Madison, 4-2, despite a pair of goals from freshman Kristen Stalter. Prior to that, the Spiders were blanked, 1-0, in their cross-city derby match with Virginia Commonwealth.The Spiders began the 2006 campaign with losses to No.9 West Virginia (3-0) and Rutgers (2-1) at the JMU/Comfort Inn Classic. In the loss to the Scarlet Knights, Julia Bizer scored Richmond’s goal, but Rutgers got the winner with just 44 seconds remaining.Jessie Wolfe leads the way for the Spiders; she was their leading scorer a year ago with 15 points. Like Wolfe, Susan Boyer -- a sophomore -- earned Atlantic 10 All-Rookie and honorable mention all-conference honors a year ago.Richmond went 5-9-4 last year.

Penn had its season opener rained out last Friday against Rider, and so instead faced the daunting task of kicking off the 2006 campaign against Rice, a 2005 NCAA College Cup team that had already played (and won) three times entering the match. In a match where both teams had their chances, the result was a 0-0 draw at Rhodes Field.Freshman Cailly Carroll got the start in goal for the Quakers, and came up with six saves to garner the shutout in her collegiate debut. Strong performances also came from newcomers Jessica Fuccello, Jess Rothenheber and Michelle Drugan.Penn returned six starters from a year ago, headlined by a trio of All-Ivy players -- Natalie Capuano, Tracy Bienenfeld and Rachel Fletcher, the team’s leading returning scorer. In the backfield, Megan Boys and Eileen Larkin are back to shore things up, and they are getting help from Nicki White’s move from the midfield.

Hofstra, 2005 Colonial Athletic Association champions and NCAA College Cup participant, enters this weekend’s tournament as the only team with a win -- in fact, the Pride have three of them in four matches. After a season-opening loss to No. 12 Connecticut, Hofstra has won three straight, including two by shutout.Kariena Richards was the hero in last Sunday’s 2-1 win over Central Connecticut, scoring the winner with just 7:30 remaining in regulation. In that match, freshman Jill Lipari scored her first collegiate goal.Larkin Hargraves was the lone goalscorer in Hofstra’s 1-0 win over Sacred Heart, and Marie Curtin led the charge in the Pride’s 3-0 blanking of Fairfield with a pair of goals.The Hofstra defense is led by junior All-America Sue Weber, who is on the Hermann Trophy watch list, and backstopped by Krystal Robens who has a 1.43 goals-against average as the starter.