A year ago, the Penn field hockey team didn’t earn its second victory until the eighth game of the season. Going back two seasons, it took the team 13 games.
Now, just two matches in, the Quakers are 2-0 and off to their best start since 1997 after defeating Lehigh and Towson in a pair of weekend games at Franklin Field.
“It’s huge to start off strong with that momentum,” junior captain Julie Tahan said after Sunday’s 4-3 decision over Towson (0-4). “We need the confidence, as the past few years haven’t been so great.”
Tahan, last season’s leading scorer, tallied three goals — one in Friday’s 5-2 win over Lehigh (0-4) and two, including the game-winner, against Towson.
“To see her be able to finish offensively despite the fact that she’s playing a slightly more defensive role is really great because we know we can rely on her to contribute the way she needs to,” coach Colleen Fink said. “She’s just a workhorse, so we need her to continue to do that for us.”
Both of Tahan’s scores on Sunday came off penalty corners, of which Penn had many — an advantageous 13 compared to Towson’s six.
The first goal, just under seven minutes in, came on a perfectly executed set play in which Helene Caniglia passed the ball in front of the net to Tahan, who quickly sent it to MaryRose Croddick before she gave it back to Tahan for a one-timer.
The play worked so well that when the Quakers were in need of another score with the game tied, 3-3, late in the second half, Fink called on it again. And it yielded the same result.
“We ran it once in between and saw that they hadn’t made any adjustments, so we called the same [play] and it was successful,” Fink said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Success on penalty corners is a good sign for the Red and Blue, who have struggled in the past with capitalizing on the opportunities.
“We would get a lot of corners but not execute them,” Tahan said. “I think what’s different this year is that we have just so many different options for shooters, so it keeps the defense on their toes.”
Penn received offensive contributions from a variety of players, including junior Sunny Stirewalt, who scored the first two goals Friday, junior Amelia Cohen, senior Sarah Hasson, Croddick and freshman Elizabeth Hitti. The first-year attacker started both games and notched her first collegiate goal to break a 2-2 tie against Lehigh on Friday. She was named Ivy Rookie of the Week for her efforts as well.
“It’s huge … to see a freshman come up and get the go-ahead goal,” Fink said. “And then to see a goal like Amelia Cohen’s [on Sunday], digging it out, getting multiple shots off, [in] an uncomfortable position.”
The weekend also marked the beginning of the Carly Sokach era in net. The sophomore goalie, who started just once as a freshman, earned her first two career victories, recording 10 saves on 15 shots across both matches.
Penn’s next two games will come on the road — Saturday at Liberty (2-2) and Sunday at Appalachian State (1-3) — when the team will aim to build upon its momentum.
“The message that I’m going to send to them is that they’re learning how to win,” Fink said. “That’s a process now. … It doesn’t just happen overnight.”