Quakers Battle To Scoreless Tie After Waters Recede
Penn's preparation cut short by rain-drenched preseason and postponed season opener
After a virtually nonexistent preseason, the women's soccer team salvaged a scoreless draw against a formidable Rice squad in its season opener on Monday.
Despite not making it onto the scoresheet, the Quakers performed an impressive opening act. Rice (3-0-1), coming off consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, opened this season with three straight victories - the best start in school history.
Penn (0-0-1) had little time to establish chemistry heading into the match. Rain plagued an already short week-long preseason, even canceling Saturday's intended season opener against Rider. Moreover, the Quakers entered Monday's contest with 10 strangers to collegiate athletics.
Said Penn coach Darren Ambrose of the short preseason, "When … you have seven days to get [the team] into a system which they have never played before, without playing competition, [playing today] makes the difference.
"They've never played in a game that has real referees and that means something. I think what this shows is that they are competitive."
The match featured a strong performance from Penn freshman goalkeeper Cailly Carroll. Showing maturity and composure, the Quakers keeper collected six saves for the shutout in her debut.
Carroll was challenged from the onset of the game, with Rice controlling the ball and the pace for much of the first half. The Owls saw their best scoring chance - a header in the eighth minute - denied by the goalpost.
Penn's offensive pressure increased as the game wore on. After several opportunities at the end of the first half, the Quakers nearly emerged victorious in the second minute of overtime when Rachel Fletcher had only the Rice goalie to beat. However, Penn's leading goal scorer from last season could not put in her first of 2006.
The Owls' final legitimate threat came in double overtime - a shot deflected by the crossbar, then cleared by the Quakers defense.
Ambrose was happy with the defensive effort his team put forth, but did see some faults.
"I thought we defended pretty well, and I think we showed that we are very suspect to a counterattack," he said of his girls' performance.
In the end, the match was a 110-minute marathon, with both Penn and Rice fried by the afternoon heat. Ambrose, however cited the team's poor physical condition, not the heat, as the source of his team's problem.
"Fitness let us down," he said. "We were not as dangerous offensively as we'd like to be. … It was because of heart that we didn't lose" today's game.
The Quakers return to Rhodes Field on Friday to host the Penn Invitational, when they will play Hofstra in the tournament's opener at 7:30 p.m.