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Women's Soccer's Winning Ways

After a disastrous 1996, the team is vying for the Ivy title.
By Noel Hynd

ISTHERE ANYTHING more exciting in sports than a team that suddenly turns everything around -- particularly if the turnaround is in the right direction? This fall, Penn women's soccer has been the Cinderella story among Penn athletics, a team rebounding from a Disastrous -- capital D intentional -- 1996 season. Well, how else can one look at a club that finished last in the Ivies last year and is vying for the title this year?
   "Everything that could go wrong in '96 happened," remarked Coach Patrick Baker recently. Aside from maybe someone stealing the goals and the balls, his statement is completely accurate. Only one season earlier in 1995, Penn women's soccer -- now in its seventh season, and playing games at Rhodes Field -- had posted its first winning season ever (8-6-2). Then came last year, when the squad lost two goal keepers -- Anne Kluetmeier and Lauren Dickie -- to injuries and highly-touted recruits, Andrea and Jill Callaghan, who are twins, to muscle-enzyme deficiency. Sprinkle in some bad luck, bad judgment, and inconsistent play, and the result was a crash-and-self-immolate scenario: a 5-10-2 overall record, with a rock-bottom Ivy record of 1-6.
   But that was then. Mercifully, this is now.
   The team started training hard in the off-season. The results of that regimen, along with better medical reports for last year's walking wounded, paid off immediately. Penn women's soccer won six of its first seven games, including an exciting five-game winning streak in which Penn outscored its opponents by a stunning 19-1. Included in the run were a first-ever win over Dartmouth (2-1) and a solid shutout of Cornell (2-0). Instead of taking themselves out of title-contention early in the season, the squad put itself in first place in the Ivy League for the first time in the program's history.
   Two non-league losses followed, to Duke 3-1 and the University of North Carolina 9-0. Both Duke and UNC are nationally ranked in the top 10. Hardly discouraged, the Quakers then rebounded with a 5-0 trouncing of Lehigh at Rhodes Field.
   That led the team to the middle weekend in October, which would prove a crucial one for the team's title aspirations, with road games against Harvard and Columbia. The Harvard game proved a heartbreaker, a 1-0 loss. But two days later the team rebounded with a gutsy 2-1 overtime victory in New York which kept the Penn squad tied for the Ivy lead with a 3-1 record. Whatever the outcome of this season, this year's squad has made an emphatic statement, not only that women's sports can be as exciting as any on campus, but also that Penn women's soccer will be heard from in the next few years.
   Forward (and co-captain) Darah Ross, the most prolific goal scorer to play in Penn's program, is the only starting senior. Midfielder (and co-captain) Tina Cooper is a junior. The Callaghan sisters are sophomores, as are goal keepers Kluetmeier, Dickie, and Amy Jodoin. A fourth goal keeper, Danielle Cantor, is a freshman.
   Of the remaining notable starters or regulars, Kelly Stevens, Jacky Flood, and Lindsey Carson are juniors; Jenny Danielson and Deane Kocivar-Norbury are sophomores; and Shannon Porter and Kelly Toland are freshmen. Even some of the subs are getting into the act. Halfway through the season, Leah Wulforst, a freshman midfielder/forward, and midfielder Emily Goodman, are among the team's scoring leaders without having started a game.
   Championship or not in 1997, this has been one of Penn's most interesting and exciting teams to watch this fall. And one can't help but imagine how this year of winning and experience should pay off again in 1998.

Noel Hynd, C'70, writes regularly on sports for the Gazette.


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