For every sports team, one of the most important games of the season is the opener. Mantras of “starting strong” and “gaining momentum” populate locker room speeches across the nation, and few games can match the energy attached to the first game.
But for Penn sports, the start of the season has not gone according to plan. Teams that compete in head-to-head fashion — men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, and volleyball — are a combined 2-9 to start the season, including 0-2 starts for field hockey and men’s soccer, the latter of which was nationally ranked heading into the season. For all the focus that goes into starting on the right foot, the results have not materialized for the Red and Blue.
It goes without saying that such a start is not ideal for the Quakers — but in my opinion, it is hardly consequential. For all the date-circling, the season opener is just another game. And for all the anticipation, a bad first week does not make a bad team.
In 2018, the hometown Philadelphia Eagles entered the season as the reigning Super Bowl champions following their first title in franchise history. But the Birds dropped three of their first five games, putting them on the outside looking in as the playoff race began. What resulted was a stretch of five wins in the final six games of the regular season (fueled by the return of Nick Foles, the team’s Super Bowl hero), a playoff appearance, and a one-possession loss against the NFC’s top-seeded New Orleans Saints.
While the Quakers may not have any Super Bowl MVPs coming to save the day, the best version of each individual team has still yet to appear. Men’s soccer’s offense — which led the Ivy League in scoring goals a season ago — has been dormant off the bat, managing just one goal over two games. Field hockey, which showed the ability to keep up with the best in the nation in 2022, fell to No. 1 North Carolina and No. 9 Louisville by a combined margin of 6-1.
All this to say that the best is yet to come for the Red and Blue. It is easy to see the zeroes in the win column and hit the panic button, but defining the whole by such a small sample would be a mistake. When the season eventually draws to a close, these slow starts will be remembered as nothing more than wins and losses.
Additionally, a rocky beginning often provides teams with an inflection point — a place to consider what’s gone wrong and how to fix it. It is at that juncture that some teams find out who they really are. It is where bad teams fall and great teams rise.
For the Penn sports slow to start, there are likely better days on the horizon. But in the search to determine what kind of team they truly are, it’s now or never.
WALKER CARNATHAN is a sophomore and current deputy sports editor studying English from Harrisburg, Pa. All comments should be directed to email@example.com.
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