According to Penn field hockey coach Val Cloud, it's "September or bust" this season.
The Quakers hope to avenge their 6-11 record (4-3 Ivy) in 2009 in which they went 2-7 in the first month of play and at one point lost seven games in a row.
Although the team reestablished itself in the second half of the season by picking up three wins over Ivy League opponents in a two-week span, this year it refuses to settle for a poor start.
"We can't expect to do well throughout the season if we are not winning in September," Cloud said. "There is no reason why we cant play well early on."
Easier said than done.
The team will be forced to pick up the pieces after losing six starters to graduation who formed the bulk of its midfield and attack as well as last year's starting goalkeeper Alanna Butera.
However, Penn returns six seniors, headlined by co-captain Sarah Warner who received second team All-Ivy honors last season.
"All of the seniors are really strong players," Warner said. "We have all been fighting for four years and now we are all starting and playing. We are going to work hard … to make sure that we start off strong."
Warner will anchor a strong defensive unit that returns three out of four starters.
"Our strength is definitely the defense," Cloud said. "The core of the team is strong; it's just that the others have to pick up and fill in."
The team will also be aided by the addition of eight freshmen, several of whom are expected to have an immediate impact. Specifically, midfielder Sara Hasson will start, and midfielder Kaila McDonnell and defender Kyle deSandes-Moyer will see significant playing time in September.
The Red and Blue open their season at Monmouth tomorrow and will return home Sunday to take on Virginia Commonwealth University.
However, Penn will have to start without the freshman class, as the Quakers' first two games coincide with New Student Orientation. As per school rules, freshmen must attend certain NSO activities and therefore can't play with the team.
Although the Quakers will be at a disadvantage in their opening weekend without the eight newcomers, Penn hopes a strong work ethic and a revitalized attitude will guide it through the first half of the season.
"It's a whole new team this year with totally different energy," senior co-captain Katie Rose said. "Treating every practice like it's a game is going to help us right from the start."
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