Junior goalie Meghan Kennedy led Cornell women’s soccer to a 0-0 shutout against Penn on the road this weekend. The Red recorded its second consecutive shutout, after a 0-0 draw against Fairleigh Dickinson University last Sunday. Kennedy posted a career-high 10 saves to keep the Quakers at bay — four of which were made during double overtime periods.
Friday’s game marked the second consecutive draw between the Red (2-4-2, 0-1-1 Ivy) and the Quakers (2-5-3, 1-0-1) on Penn’s home-turf at Rhodes Field. However, the most recent match between the two teams — almost a year to the day from Friday’s game — was a very different story.
Penn crushed the Red, 5-0, on the Red’s home turf at Berman Field when they faced off in 2016. Last year’s defeat was a major blow to the Red’s early-season record, and came as its second consecutive conference loss.
This season seems to be headed in a different direction, in part due to Cornell’s iron-clad defensive line. After dropping its league-opener against Columbia, 2-0, the Red held tough against the Quakers’ aggressive offensive line, which outshot the Red, 14-1, in the first half and 28-10 by the game’s end.
“I think that our back line all performed so well and so cohesively that Penn had a hard time finding holes to play through,” Kennedy said. “We also had Shelby Wray shutting down one of their best players as a defensive midfielder, which stopped a lot of their offense.”
Wray, a new face in the lineup, is a freshman midfielder already making an impact on the team’s scoring potential. She was the force behind several of the Red’s near-misses against Penn.
Heading into Friday’s competition, the Quakers were riding a high from a big upset at Harvard, where they took down the reigning Ivy League Champions 1-0 on the Crimson’s home turf.
Although fully aware of the impressive upset, the Red was confident in its ability to match the Quakers, and its confidence was not misplaced.
“We all knew that we could definitely beat Penn, as long as we stayed tight on defense and battled in the middle,” Kennedy said. “We knew before the game that they play very compact and strong in the middle.”
The cohesion of the Red’s defensive line helped shut out the Quakers on the same field where the reigning Ivy champs had failed the week prior.
The defense came from Kennedy, who currently leads the Ivy League in saves-per-game. She earned All-Ivy honorable mention last season, after starting in goal as a sophomore for nine games with a .852 save percentage.
But while Kennedy and the rest of the Red’s defensive line was nearly flawless on Friday, its offensive line will have to increase its output in terms of shots-on-goal to get the points the team needs to win.
“We were all happy about getting the shut out and having a good performance on the road, but we were disappointed not to get the win,” Kennedy said.
The Red will have homefield advantage next weekend when it faces the Crimson at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Berman Field.