For the Penn women’s soccer team, it all comes down to one game.
The Quakers control their own destiny as they travel to Princeton, N.J., on Saturday to take on the first-place Tigers — who are currently riding a 10-game win streak — for a share of the Ivy title.
Penn sits in second place in the Ancient Eight, and a win would catapult the Red and Blue to the top of the standings and give them the Ivy League’s automatic berth in the NCAA tournament, provided Dartmouth ties or loses to Cornell as well.
“We’re all really excited,” senior Erin Beck said. “This is exactly where we want to be at this time of the year, playing for a share of the title. As it stands, Princeton already has the share of the title, and they’re fighting to get the entire thing, and we’re there to get a share of it.”
If Princeton wins on Saturday, the Tigers would win the league title outright. If Penn and Dartmouth win, all three teams would share the conference championship, and a hat drawing would determine the team that advances to the postseason.
One of the obstacles to the Quakers’ title dreams is Princeton senior Jen Hoy, who has had a career season for the Tigers, scoring 17 goals so far this year. The 2011 first team All-Ivy forward has won three Ivy League Player of the Week Awards this season.
Senior Erin Thayer described Hoy as “really athletic.”
“Why [Hoy] is so dangerous is her speed,” Beck added. “We’ve been working all week on defensive shape and knowing the players we’re defending, so we act accordingly. But I don’t think we should have problems.”
While Hoy leads the Ivy League in goals — with a full 10 more than any other player — Princeton has a strong squad overall. In games in which Hoy has not scored, the Tigers still sport a 5-1 record.
But the Quakers are approaching the season finale like any other game they have played this season.
“We haven’t made any adjustments,” coach Darren Ambrose said. “We haven’t talked about Princeton. We talk about us and we talk about what we need to do. That’s how we run our program.”
Thayer added that the team was working on “defending as a unit” against the Princeton offense.
As is the case in most Penn-Princeton matchups, Saturday’s game will likely be a close one. Three of the last five matchups with the Tigers have gone into overtime. Two years ago, a tie at Princeton gave the Red and Blue the Ivy League title.
Anything can happen in a game with so much at stake, and while the Quakers certainly have a challenge to meet, Princeton will also have its hands full with a very talented Penn squad.
“[Princeton’s] got lots of great players,” Ambrose said, “but so do we.”