In one week, things will really get exciting for Penn field hockey.
The inaugural game at Ellen Vagelos Field, the Quakers’ brand new, state-of-the-art facility will be played next Saturday, also opening up conference play for the Red and Blue. With the Philadelphia skyline in sight and AstroTurf rather than SprinTurf below their feet, the Red and Blue will take the field and battle to the last whistle with Cornell in a game that will go down in Quakers history.
Until then, though, Penn (1-0) will have to sustain its momentum on the road.
With a game Friday at winless St. Joseph’s (0-4) and a Sunday matchup at .500 Bucknell (2-0), this weekend represents an opportunity for the Quakers to head into the Ivy League season with a winning record, potentially even an undefeated one.
But first, head coach Colleen Fink wants the Quakers to tighten up a few loose ends that almost cost them their season opener. The Red and Blue gave up two late goals in the first half and a goal in the final five minutes of the second half, getting burned on turnovers in their own defensive end that left no one back to halt the opposing attack.
How the back line handles the ball late in the game will be pivotal this weekend.
“It’s something we spent a lot of time on.” Fink said. “But what happened in the game wasn’t a fluke,
and it’s something we will spend even more time on this week to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
What Fink doesn’t want to change is the offensive attack. The five-goal outburst was Penn’s highest total in nearly a full season, and it came from all the right places. Penn’s star power was on full display with goals from former AllIvy performers Julie Tahan and Elizabeth Hitti, as well as youthful reinforcement with goals from freshmen Elise Tilton and Jasmine Cole.
With what seems to be five legitimate scoring threats (co-captain Alex Iqbal also rattled off a team-high five shots), Penn is in an unfamiliar but welcome situation in which it can count on an ensemble for an offensive advantage.
“It’s a great spot to be in,” Fink said. “We brought these freshmen in to be offensive threats and I think they will work great with our older leaders.”
A player to watch with all these new threats is senior and two-time captain Julie Tahan. In the past, Tahan has been the Quakers’ biggest threat, and she’s paid the price by frequently drawing the opposition’s best defender and relentlessly getting swarmed while other teammates are left open.
Suddenly, Tahan has options. She’s a natural scorer, but her field vision and supporting cast of offensively reliable teammates will probably also lead in a jump in her assist total.
This weekend concludes a three-game road trip that was much more like a three-month excursion for the Red and Blue. They’ve had to take their practices off campus while their new field was being prepared and finally began practicing at their new facility Tuesday.
St. Joseph’s is off to a tough start but could represent a real challenge for the Quakers. The Hawks have dropped three straight decisions by one goal, including a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Drexel. Bucknell is riding a two-game winning streak, including a four-goal win over Missouri State and an overtime win against Ohio State.
So maybe things are exciting enough for now — at least until it’s time to roll out the new carpet for game action once and for all.
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