The men's soccer team faced two tough opponents Saturday night, battling Mother Nature and Penn en route to a 1-0 victory.
The weather made a formidable adversary, with rain, sleet and snow fusing together to obscure Stevenson Field and the players' lines of sight. The forecast was ominous as game time approached, but with league play underway and the uncertainty of future weather patterns, there was little possibility of the match being rescheduled.
"The conditions are nearly impossible for both teams," said Head Coach Patrick Laughlin. "But as we move further along in the season, we get to a point where it's hard to squeeze games in, and we're not sure tomorrow might not be worse."
"Unfortunately, tonight the field conditions just kept getting worse and worse and worse," he added.
The game appeared to be taking place in a snow globe, with constant flurries limiting visibility and cloaking the end lines. The players' long sleeves and gloves proved insufficient protection — by game's end many players left the game with bright-red ears and scraped legs from sliding.
"That was probably one of the craziest games I've ever played in," said Taylor Gorman '12. "It wasn't soccer — it was a battle of wills."
Both teams had difficulty in the opening half. Players struggled to maintain their footing, and the layer of slush covering the field caused the ball to lose its momentum and slow to a stop quickly. The Bears (9-4-2, 3-1-1 Ivy) outshot the Quakers (6-7-2, 1-4-0) eight to six, but neither team was able to find the back of the net before the end of the opening period. At halftime, as the players hustled back to their respective locker rooms, all fans in attendance retreated to the warmth of their cars.
As the second half commenced, the game appeared doomed to end in a scoreless tie as players skidded across the field and shots and passes fell short of their marks. But in the 63rd minute, a Quaker foul inside the box resulted in a penalty kick for the Bears. Austin Mandel '12 capitalized on the opportunity, drilling the ball into the upper-left corner for his first goal of the year to put Bruno ahead 1-0.
Mandel, a native of Southern California, said he had endured snowy conditions on only one other occasion. Nonetheless, he said he knew he held the upper hand over the goalkeeper when taking the penalty kick.
"I figured that if I put it in a decent spot, he wasn't going to save it," Mandel said. "He's not going to move well in that weather."
The Bears' defense was unrelenting for the remainder of the game, holding the Quakers scoreless to earn Bruno's eighth shutout of the season. Goalkeeper Sam Kernan-Schloss '13 only had to make one save on the night and was credited with the clean sheet. The victory keeps the team's hopes of an Ivy League title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament alive, but the Bears must win their final two league matchups against Yale and Dartmouth to preserve their chances.
The Bears travel to New Haven Saturday to face Yale before returning home Nov. 12 to take on Dartmouth.
"I'm proud of them for battling through the difficulties," Laughlin said. "The guys have shown that they are willing to scrap and fight for anything, and they proved it again tonight."