PHILADELPHIA -The Penn women's soccer team is finally ready to kick off the 2009 season. While the rest of the nation is already into its third weekend of play, the Quakers will get things started Friday night at 7:30, when unbeaten George Mason (3-0-0) comes to town. (That match is the second of a Penn soccer doubleheader, as the men kick the night off by hosting Seton Hall at 5 p.m.)
Two days later, the Penn and unbeaten La Salle (4-0-0) women will renew their city series on Rhodes Field, with another 7 p.m. kickoff.
Admission to all soccer matches is free.
Penn is slated to play 11 home games this season, including five of its first six. Next weekend, the Quakers host Northwestern and Pitt.
The Series With George Mason: The Quakers and Patriots are looking to break a deadlock in the series on Friday; through six matches, both teams have won three times. Most recently, in 2005, Penn gained a 2-1 decision right here at Rhodes Field. The only other match played here in Philadelphia came in 2002, and was won by GMU, 2-0.
About George Mason: The Patriots come to Rhodes Field in the midst of a very hot start -- through three matches, they are not just unbeaten but also unscored upon. In fact, GMU has outscored its first three opponents by a combined 13-0 (3-0 over VMI, 6-0 over Mount St. Mary's, 4-0 over Howard). To give some historical perspective, Mason is 3-0 for the first time since 1993. Omolyn Davis leads GMU with three goals, while Kelly Keelan and Tiana Kallenberger have scored twice each.
The Series With La Salle: The Quakers have dominated the series with Sunday's opponent, going 12-0-1 in the 13 matches between these city foes. Last year, Penn got a pair of goals from Kristin Kaiser in the game's first 15 minutes and took a 2-0 decision at La Salle. In six home matches with the Explorers, Penn is a perfect 6-0-0 and has four shutouts.
About La Salle: The Explorers enter the weekend with a perfect 4-0-0 record, the first time in program history they have started this well. (La Salle is scheduled to host Lehigh Friday night) The last three wins have come via shutout, including Tuesday night's 2-0 blanking of Lafayette. Ally Kenney and Melanie Gamble scored for the Explorers, while freshman Gabrielle Pakhtigian garnered the clean sheet in goal with three saves. Kenney leads La Salle with three goals, while Gamble, Traci DePasquale and Kierstyn Mabey have two each. In goal, both Pakhtigian and Melissa Sanger have two starts.
*Penn has scored 68 goals and allowed just 33 in the last two seasons.
*Penn returns eight of 11 starters and 15 letterwinners from a squad that went 8-6-3 overall and 2-3-2 in the Ivies.
*Penn returns 23 of its 33 goals, nine of its 12 goalscorers, four double-digit point markers, and three of its four top point scorers from last season.
*Taking it back a year further, the Quakers still have seven players who started at least 12 matches in 2007. That year, Penn went 13-4-1 and won the Ivy League title with a 6-1-0 mark.
*Penn returns a pair of All-Ivy players from a year ago, as junior first-teamer Sarah Friedman will man the midfield and sophomore Marin McDermott (honorable mention) will slide up front.
*Friedman returns after a 2008 season in which she shattered the program record for assists (15); with 20 for her career, the junior only needs six to become the program's all-time leader.
*McDermott scored 10 points in her freshman campaign (3g, 4a) and tied for the team lead with three assists and five points in Ivy League play.
*Penn will be bolstered by the return of two other senior All-Ivy players; Jessica Fuccello was a first-team honoree in 2007, but missed last year to injury, while two-time second-teamer Jess Rothenheber looks for a healthy 2009 after seeing abbreviated action in 2008 due to injury.
*Fuccello did not score in two matches last year, but scored 20 goals and 49 points in her first two seasons; those numbers are fifth and eighth, respectively, on Penn's all-time lists.
*Rothenheber, meanwhile, had nine assists in 2007 -- tied for third on the program's single-season chart -- and 11 in her first two seasons (tied for 11th all-time).
*Junior Kristin Kaiser tied for the team lead with five goals last season, and added two assists for 12 points which was third on the team.
*In her freshman campaign, Ursula Lopez-Palm had four goals and three assists for 11 points.
*In goal, senior Sara Rose enters her senior season as the program's all-time leader in goals-against average (0.81), third in career shutouts (9.5), and fourth in career save percentage (.778).
*Rose started 13 matches in 2008, with a 1.08 GAA and 4.5 shutouts (she shared the clean sheet against La Salle with sophomore Caroline Williams).
*Williams played in four matches as a freshman, making two starts, compiling a 1.26 GAA and 16 saves.
*The defense figures to be anchored by three veterans-senior Michelle Drugan (42 career starts) and juniors Kaitlin Campbell (34) and Marisa Schoen (26).
*A leading candidate to round out the defense is sophomore Adrienne Lerner, who appeared in seven matches as a freshman in 2008.
*After missing the 2007 season due to injury, senior Allyson Gordon played in all 17 matches last year and scored five points (2g, 1a).
*Two sophomores who saw productive time last year and hope to add to it this year are Colleen Barry (14 appearance, 4 starts) and Theresa Yankovich (11 games, goal at Robert Morris).
*Head coach Darren Ambrose expects some of the newcomers to play key rolesright from the start this season. The group ofnewcomersincludes Erin Beck, Taylor Collins, Alex Dayneka, Yvonne Moyer, goalkeeper Rachel Resek, Erin Thayer, and Laura Yu.Quoting Head Coach Darren Ambrose
"We know that both George Mason and La Salle will be coming in here looking to beat us this weekend. They are both playing with a lot of excitement and confidence, and we will need to play very well in order to win against both of them."
"Since these are our first games of the season, we need to prove we can compete. We have a strong non-conference schedule to start out, and this is a good way to get it going. We will look to move the ball quickly and attack. I feel like we are pretty fit for this time of year, but the only way to get game-fit is to play games."
"I give a lot of credit to our upperclass players. They came in strong and fit and ready to go a few weeks back. They have experienced good starts and bad starts, and they have given every indication that they want to get off to a good start -- they have set a great tone at practice."
"There will be some rust, certainly, but I think there are a lot of intangibles this weekend that will have our players motivated -- the fact that we are home andboth games will be played under the lights, and Sunday's game is a city rivalry game."