Despite the offensive prowess the Penn field hockey team has displayed early this season, coach Colleen Fink has been calling for the defense to step up.
Saturday’s matchup with Harvard may be the perfect antidote.
The Crimson (1-4, 0-1 Ivy), who will take on the Quakers (4-3, 0-1) at Franklin Field, have scored just three goals in five games so far this season.
And in just their second game on the road, the Crimson will have the challenge of playing on Sprinturf — not AstroTurf — for the first time this season.
“They are kind of similar to us in that at times they can be their own worst enemies,” Fink said of Harvard. “Where their strength is defensively — they’ve been able to stay with other programs because of their defense — they haven’t been able to score many goals.”
Harvard has allowed 10 goals in five games, whereas Penn has given up 22 in seven.
“We’ve been able to hang with a lot of teams because we’ve been able to put the ball in the back of the net,” Fink said, but added that the “defense needs that one standout performance.”
Not only that, but the Quakers are searching for their first Ivy win after losing their opener to Cornell, 4-0, last weekend.
If the team is going to accomplish its goal of improving upon its 2-5 record from a year ago, beating Harvard for the first time since 2009 is a necessary feat.
“One of our biggest goals is to move up in the Ivy rankings, and with the loss to Cornell, that definitely hurts our goal,” Fink said. “Now these upcoming games … are critical.”
In previous years — Penn had three wins in 2010 and four last season — the team might not have had the mindset where it expected to win every game.
That isn’t the case anymore.
“Going into the season, the expectation right off the bat was definitely to win a lot more. We had no expectation that we were going to be losing games like we had been in previous years,” freshman Elizabeth Hitti said. “The attitude of the freshmen and basically the whole team is just to win.”
Last season, the Quakers traveled to New England coming off their Ivy-opening win and dropped a 4-1 contest to the Crimson. Penn was in the midst of an eight-game streak where it couldn’t score more than one goal.
This year, that hasn’t been a problem. But whether Saturday’s game is a high-scoring contest or a low-scoring nail-biter, it doesn’t matter.
“The team definitely gets a little more excited for [Ivy League games], and coming off the loss against Cornell, we’re angry,” Hitti said.
“We want the win, so Harvard better watch out.”