PHILADELPHIA - The Penn women’s soccer team is nearing uncharted waters in terms of Ivy League success. To navigate those waters, though, first they need to overcome another big fish.
Yale comes to Rhodes Field Saturday night as a perennial power in the league, including the 2005 championship. This year, the Bulldogs are an inauspicious 7-5-0 overall, but an ambitious early-season schedule has set the table for recent success (six wins in their last seven matches, with four coming by shutout).
Kickoff between the Quakers and the Bulldogs is 5 p.m.; for the second-straight weekend, the match is the first of a Penn soccer doubleheader at Rhodes, as the Penn and Yale men square off following the women’s match.
Penn head coach Darren Ambrose knows his team is in for a battle.
“This is always a great game,” he said. “Both of us are attack-minded teams, so we usually put together a pretty entertaining match. With the way both teams are playing right now I expect a real pace to the game.”
Like Yale, Penn has been playing at a high level, as well. The Quakers are 9-2-1; only the 2001 team had a better mark after 12 matches in the program’s history. In addition, Penn’s 3-0-0 start in Ivy play is only the second time in program history that has happened; the other was 2004. Ambrose is hoping for a better finish than the first team around, however -- that Quaker team tied Dartmouth in its fourth Ivy match, en route to a 4-2-1 conference finish.
Penn’s success was borne out of some of its results from last season, however, and Ambrose acknowledges that the Quakers game at Yale last year may have been the genesis.
“Yale was very good last year, and we went up there and were able to get a draw,” he said. “After the season, almost to a player, the women said it was that game that really showed them what it takes to play at a higher level in an Ivy League game. I think our game in New Haven was where we turned the corner last year, and we have been able to continue that into this season.”
Some notes entering the weekend...
Penn and Yale kick off Saturday’s doubleheader with their 17th meeting in women’s soccer; the Blldogs hold an 11-2-3 lead in the series.
These teams drew, 0-0, last year in New Haven; in 2005, Yale downed Penn, 1-0, en route to winning the Ivy League title.
At 9-2-1, Penn has already surpassed its win total from each of the last two years. In fact, one more win will give the Quakers 10 wins in a season for the first time since the 2001 Ivy League co-championship team went 13-2-3.
That 2001 team is the only one in program history to have a better record after 12 matches than this year’s team (10-1-1 compared to this year’s 9-2-1).
Penn is off to a 3-0-0 start in Ivy League play for just the second time in program history; the other was 2004.
Penn has already scored 27 goals this season (compared to 24 in all of 2006); not surprisingly, the Quakers lead the Ivy League in goals, assists and points per game.
At the other end, Penn (0.90) is one of four Ivy teams with a goals-against average below 1.00, along with Harvard (0.60), Columbia (0.80) and Princeton (0.97).
Sophomore Jessica Fuccello scored Penn’s first goal last weekend against Dartmouth, and has now scored in three-straight matches for the Quakers. Classmate Jess Rothenheber assisted Fuccello’s goal and later scored the match-winner for a three-point night.
Fuccello has scored eight times this season, giving her 17 goals for her short collegiate career. Believe it or not, that already places her ninth on Penn’s all-time goalscoring list. Next up? Rachelle Snyder and Kelly Stevens, both of whom had 18 career goals. Fuccello leads the Ivy League in overall goals (0.67) and points (1.50) per game.
Rothenheber, meanwhile, is tied for tops among Ivy players in assists per game (0.58) and second behind Fuccello in points per game (1.42).
With seven assists this season, Rothenheber is already tied for third on Penn’s single-season list; she needs two more to tie Meg Kinney in second place (set in 1994), and three to tie Katy Cross for the record (set in 2001).
Sophomore Sara Rose had two saves to preserve last weekend’s win over the Big Green. Overall, she has a 0.90 goals-against average.
An ambitious early schedule by Yale is paying off; the Bulldogs are 6-1-0 in their last seven matches, including four shutouts. In last weekend’s 5-0 blanking of Cornell, five different players scored, and Maggie Westfal and Emma Whitfield had three points each.
In other Ivy League action this weekend, 3-0-0 Princeton is at 1-2-0 Harvard for a noon kickoff Saturday; Dartmouth and Columbia, with matching 1-2-0 marks, meet in New York at 4:30 p.m. Saturday; and 1-2-0 Brown travels to Ithaca for a meeting with 0-3-0 Cornell Sunday at noon.