When the Penn field hockey team takes the turf against Columbia on Friday, sophomore goalie Carly Sokach will be staring down a familiar foe. Lauren Skudalski, starting center back for the Lions, was a high school teammate and is one of her closest friends.
“[Lauren] was the person that I talked to first on the field,” Sokach said.
Despite the connection, there is no love lost between the two teams.
“We have to kill Columbia on Friday,” she said. “Everyone is really hungry for this win.”
Part of that desire may come from the brutal memory of last year’s matchup. Although the Red and Blue have won seven of the last 10 against the Lions, they lost last year on the road by a score of 5-1.
For senior captain Mandy Epstein, Columbia is a “huge game” because of the Quakers’ current record.
“We’re really encouraged to stay above .500,” Epstein said.
Penn has been very successful at home this season. The Red and Blue own a 4-1 record at Franklin Field, including an Ivy League victory over Harvard.
The last time Columbia and Penn met in Philadelphia, the Quakers came away with a 3-2 win in overtime.
The Red and Blue head in with confidence coming off their best victory of the season, a 4-0 shutout over Radford.
The Quakers hope to carry that momentum into Friday’s game. For coach Colleen Fink, there is only one key to victory.
“We’re going to have a good result as long as we play for that full 70 minutes,” Fink said. “We’re still concentrating on playing that full 70-minute game.”
In preparation for Columbia, Fink and Sokach said the Quakers have focused on penalty corners and outlet passes when transitioning from defense to offense.
Both coach and player also commented that these areas in particular are one where Columbia can make the game difficult for the Red and Blue.
While Penn has its eyes set on Columbia, the goal for the season is clear for the Quakers.
“We need to know that we can contend for an Ivy League championship,” Fink said.
The players know that in order to achieve that goal, Friday’s game is a critical piece of the puzzle.
“Columbia is definitely a beatable team,” Sokach said. “In Ivy League play, it’s do or die.”