Coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss in its Ivy opener against Cornell, the Penn field hockey team needed a boost — and a 7 a.m. practice to start the week was just what the doctor ordered.
“Monday we really picked it up even though it was early in the morning,” freshman forward Sarah Hasson said. “Everyone was pressuring each other and really pumping each other up for [tonight’s] game.”
The Quakers hope to capitalize on the confidence gained during the morning session when they face Villanova tonight at Franklin Field.
Penn (2-4, 0-1 Ivy) leads the all-time series between the two teams 13-11-2, although the Quakers have not notched a win over Villanova (5-2) in three seasons.
Yet coach Val Cloud isn’t letting that worry her.
“The video I saw, I didn’t think they were as dynamic as they have been in the past,” she said. “They are always aggressive and a tough team.”
Either way, the Quakers will still have their work cut out for them.
The Wildcats boast a powerful attack as leading scorer, junior forward Meredith Sabatini, has already tallied eight goals and two assists this season.
Penn senior back Sarah Warner, however, is ready to rise to the occasion.
“I get excited to play against their best players because it’s just really fun if you get to stop them,” Warner said. “It’s just a battle and I like it.”
In Penn’s meeting with Villanova in 2008, Warner’s defensive unit held Sabatini to a single shot on goal that did not find the back of the cage, but the Wildcats still managed a 2-1 victory.
Villanova will have the momentum entering tonight’s matchup, as it is coming off a three-game winning streak.
And because the Wildcats have SprinTurf just like Franklin Field, home field will not provide much of an advantage for Penn as it tries to slow down its speedy opponent.
“No fouls inside the circle is really huge and that’s one of our goals,” Warner said.
Villanova has made the most of its offensive opportunities, as the squad has averaged 8.29 corners per game, compared to Penn’s 2.67.
On the offensive side of the ball, Penn will have to contend with Villanova’s unique man-to-man style of play.
Where most teams play zone defense everywhere except the circle, the Wildcats’ play man-to-man all over the field.
The Red and Blue hope that the formation will play to their advantage, as it showcases individual ability.
One player expected to thrive is Hasson, who just received Ivy Rookie of the Week honors.
“I don’t want to get that in my head or anything,” Hasson said. “I just want to keep working hard. I’m only a freshman, I have a long way to go.”
With their last loss behind them, the Quakers view the matchup against their crosstown rival as a clean slate.
“We just want to show we’re not the 2-4 team that our record shows. We’re definitely much better than that,” Warner said. “It’s a non-Ivy game so it’s not as much pressure, so we can just have fun with it and come out with a win.”
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