Close yet far enough away.
Penn field hockey held a 2-1 lead late in its Sunday match against Liberty, but two late goals by the Lady Flames tipped the scales the other way, handing the Quakers a 3-2 defeat.
The Red and Blue (2-2) began the weekend with a strong 4-2 win against Fairfield, pacing themselves early on with two first half goals. And on Sunday, it looked like much of the same.
Eight minutes into the first half, Penn struck first as junior attack Elizabeth Hitti took a feed from freshman attack Alexa Hoover, scoring from the right side of the circle. It was Hitti’s second tally of the season.
“I think Hitti’s intensity was fantastic,” coach Colleen Fink said. “She was one of those players that remained resilient through the entire 70 minutes and kept coming back for more.”
Hitti would return the favor to Hoover, assisting Hoover’s sixth goal of the season six minutes later on a give and go that put Penn up 2-0 in the early going.
However, the Red and Blue couldn’t muster more than those two shots on goal in the first half, allowing Liberty to controlling play. The Lady Flames put nine shots on goal, finally breaking through for their first goal with just under three minutes to play in the half.
“I think today was just in general a product of letting Liberty dictate the pace and the tempo of the game from start to finish,” Fink said. “I think that they just dictated the style of play... I think it caused us to play a little haphazardly.”
Early in the second half, the Red and Blue were able to hold Liberty at one goal. Senior goalkeeper Allison Weisenfels — making her fourth start of both the season and her Penn career — made saves on two Liberty corners in a row.
But the Lady Flames would tie the match on an impressive rising shot from freshman midfield Rachel Suter. Just two minutes later, Weisenfels would have to make some of her most daunting saves of the match as Liberty stepped up its attack.
“She’s got great anticipation skills,” Fink said of Weisenfels. “She works really hard to take in a lot of information, whether it is through film or just in practice walking through things.”
Penn would get a chance to answer with 15 minutes left, but Liberty goalkeeper Mallory Cuccio made a sprawling stop to prevent a goal.
The key play came with 10 minutes to go as Hoover was given a yellow card, putting Penn at a one player disadvantage for the next five minutes. Liberty would capitalize as junior Sarah Gipe scored the eventual game-winner off a rebound.
The yellow card came after choppy play throughout the match, with both squads called for multiple green cards.
“Alexa is going to be the type of player that some officials love and others don’t so much love,” Fink said. “She just needs to identify early in the game how officials are going to call her, and she needs to adapt.”
Penn would have a final corner with three minutes to go but the squad could not convert.
The Quakers will take the lessons from today’s loss into Cornell next weekend to begin Ivy play.
“I think the sentiment we left with the team is that you can’t get outworked,” Fink said. “You can’t let your opponent dictate the pace and tempo of the game and if anything, it needs to be motivation and fuel going into Ivy League play next weekend.”
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