As Penn field hockey kicked off its opening homestand, no one knew what exactly they would see from the Red and Blue after an offseason of roster turnover.
By weekend’s end, the Quakers had reassured their fans that everything was A-ok.
Friday, the Red and Blue overwhelmed Lehigh with six second half goals in a 9-1 triumph, before falling to Bucknell on Sunday in a defensive slugfest, 1-0.
In their season opener against the Mountain Hawks (0-4), the Quakers (1-1) struggled at first to put the ball in the net. Lehigh goalie Julia Ward held firm for the first 21:44 of the first half, scrambling to get in the way of 12 Penn shots.
“It was definitely frustrating,” Penn coach Colleen Fink said on her team’s initial inability to convert. “Once we broke through, I think we obviously were able to continue to capitalize.”
And once junior attack Elizabeth Hitti finished into a wide open net off a deflection, the rout was on. Highly touted freshman Alexa Hoover sandwiched her first two career goals around a Lehigh tally soon after, and the Quakers took a 3-1 lead into the half.
The 10-minute break certainly didn’t affect Penn’s momentum, as senior midfield Alex Iqbal redirected a deflected pass past Ward just 78 seconds into the second half. A bigger highlight came a little over three minutes later, as Hoover displayed some nifty stickhandling to control a high pass and score just inside the circle to complete her hat trick.
Hoover’s stellar debut had her coach all smiles after the game.
“I’m encouraged, but I’m not surprised,” Fink said. “She’s a great player ... we’re just happy to add her to the Penn field hockey family.”
Not to be outdone, senior attack Emily Corcoran — Penn’s leading returning scorer — tallied three goals of her own while the Red and Blue cruised.
Scoring was in short supply when Penn squared off against the Bison (2-1) two days later.
The Red and Blue were held without a shot until there were just 21 minutes left in the contest, failing to get into any semblance of an offensive rhythm for much of the afternoon.
“We were playing a little overly cautious,” Fink said. “We had a tough game against them last year where we did not play well [a 2-1 Bucknell win on Sept. 15, 2013] and I think — I don’t know if there was some memory of that — [there was] a little bit of hesitation or reluctance on our end.”
While Penn’s offense was held at bay, the Bison made a fluky play count.
With just over nine minutes gone in the first half, Bucknell senior Liz Wills was able to get her stick on a penalty corner and deflect it past Quakers senior goalie Allison Weisenfels , who was in good position before the redirection.
But that would be all Weisenfels would surrender for the day, as she stood strong in the face of five other Bison shots.
“I think [Weisenfels is] doing a fantastic job,” Fink said. “I mean, she’s a great leader, she’s working her tail off, she’s done an amazing job and we’re very happy for her performance.”
The Quakers showed some signs of life in the second half, but it wouldn’t be enough. Hitti barely missed the net off a penalty corner with 20 minutes to play, while Iqbal’s last-ditch attempt to set up freshman Rachel Huang in a wide position skittered out of bounds in the dying seconds.
But despite the loss, the Red and Blue showed enough over the course of the weekend to assure fans that 2014 would be closer to 2013’s near-Ivy title than 2012’s 9-8 muddle.
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