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Despite key losses, the football team should be in the Ivy title hunt.

 By Noel Hynd

Here we go again, defending another Ivy football championship. Last year (who could forget?), Penn finished the season with four straight victories–over Yale, Princeton, Harvard and Cornell–to capture sole possession of the Ivy League championship. After a wild 58-51 loss to Brown in Providence, the team settled in to enhance Penn’s claim as the dominant team in 1990s Ivy football.
    Coach Al Bagnoli is returning for his eighth campaign at Penn. Since he arrived in 1992, the Quakers have the most overall wins (47), the most Ivy wins (33), the highest winning percentage (68.1) and the most Ivy titles (3) of any school in the league. While this year’s team will have different components from last year’s, especially on offense, they should be back in the hunt for another title.
    Last year, quarterback Matt Rader and tailback Jim Finn W’99 accounted for 3,579 yards of total offense out of the team’s 3,749 total yards. Graduation took both of them. So the yards this year have to come from elsewhere.
    At quarterback, there is a four-way battle for the starting position, which might not be settled until opening day (Sept. 18 against Dartmouth at Franklin Field), if then. Sophomores Tom DiMenna, Ed Mebs, Gavin Hoffman and junior Reed Werner are all in the battle. Hoffman is one of the most intriguing ingredients in the mix. A 6 ft., 6 in. transfer from Northwestern, Hoffman played 12 games for the Wildcats last year, throwing 13 touchdowns and passing for a total of 2,199 yards.
    Whoever wins the job will have some experienced Penn receivers to look for, including seniors Doug O’Neill and Brandon Carson, who had 70 receptions between them last year. Bombs away.
    Replacing Finn at tailback will be one of the most difficult tasks of the year. The names to remember are juniors Mike Verille and Givenchy Martin and sophomores Matt Thomas and Kris Ryan, all of whom have a shot at the job, and all of whom will probably see time.
    On defense, the picture looks clearer. Up front, four starters are returning. Three who are now seniors earned All- Ivy honors last year: noseguard Adrian Puzio and tackles Mike Germino and Jason Maehr. The defensive end positions have ample experience and talent, also, including juniors Brian Person, Kevin Martin and Qurran Rogers, a two-time letter winner.
    At linebacker, three-time All-Ivy selection Darren Macdonald graduated. But senior co-captain Jim Hisgen returns, as does junior Dan Morris, who has probably won the remaining starting position. If the Morris name sounds familiar, think not of Penn’s Arboretum but of Dan’s older brother Nick W’96, who played on Al Bagnoli’s first two championship teams at Penn.
    Villanova is on the schedule this year for the first time since 1980–and only the second time since 1911. The ’nova fans should have no trouble finding the north stands of Franklin Field, as they’re right next to the Palestra. Bucknell and Fordham are the other non-Ivy opponents. In a quirk of scheduling, which shouldn’t hurt, seven of Penn’s 10 games are at Franklin Field, including Princeton for Homecoming on Nov. 6. I guess Philly is just a popular place to visit.
    The key game of the season may be against Brown at Franklin Field on Oct. 23. (One prediction: There will be fewer points scored than last year’s record 109). But the last Ivy title of the millennium probably won’t be decided till the final game against Cornell on Nov. 20. Enjoy. 

In other fall sports, Penn women’s soccer provides an interesting story line every year, if not always the one I’m hoping for. Last year, women’s soccer raced off to a quick start, winning six games and tying one in their first seven–and without giving up a single goal. Then there was a 2-1 loss to Harvard that turned the season in the wrong direction. The squad ended with an 11-5-1 overall record, but 1-5-1 in the Ivies.
    But this is next year.
    New coach Andy Nelson (who had been the head coach of the women’s soccer program at Wellesley since 1994) has taken over for Patrick Baker, who moved to Florida State. Nelson inherits a very talented and experienced squad. Only two starters have departed. Sisters Jill and Andrea Callaghan, who combined for 18 of the team’s 42 goals last year, are back as seniors, as is goalkeeper Anne Kleutmeier, who posted 10 shutouts. Midfield is experienced, particularly in standout Kellianne Toland, a junior, whom Nelson describes as “the voicebox” of the team. The same defenders who helped protect the 10 shutouts last season return, with one exception. Senior sweeper Deane Korcivar-Norbury anchors that backline. Once again, Penn women’s soccer could cause havoc in the Ivies.
    Penn Field Hockey was 8-9 overall last year and 4-3 in the Ivies. Nonetheless, fifth-year head coach Val Cloud believes this year’s team has the talent and potential to pick off an Ivy title.
    Senior forward Courtney Martin will lead the offensive attack and senior co-captains Maureen Flynn and Leah Bills will anchor the midfield. Martin and Flynn earned All-Ivy honors last year.
    In men’s soccer, coach Rudy Fuller is in his second year at Penn. Last year was (let’s face it) rough: 4-11-1 overall and 0-6-1 in the Ivies. But Fuller has his first full recruiting class this year. Eighteen of the team’s 26 members will be freshmen or sophomores. Senior midfielder and co-captain Reginald Brown returns after earning Honorable Mention All-Ivy honors last year. The other co-captain is senior goalkeeper Michael O’Connor, whom Coach Fuller feels can be one of the best goalkeepers in the country.
    This year’s soccer squad has the potential to cause trouble for opponents who might be looking past them. A couple of key goals could make for a very interesting season. 

Noel Hynd C’70 writes on sports for the Gazette. His most recent novel is The Prodigy.

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