It was a beautiful day for a field hockey game, but it was even better if you were a Penn fan.
After enduring a 1-0 loss at the hands of Cornell last year in Ithaca, the Quakers bounced back this year to win, 3-2, in exciting overtime fashion on Friday.
Kicking off its Ivy League slate against the Big Red (4-3, 0-1 Ivy) at Vagelos Field, Penn (6-1, 1-0) began its conference season strong. After pinning Cornell in its defensive zone for much of the first half, the Quakers were finally rewarded for their efforts with a goal from sophomore Alexa Hoover, who took a cross from the other side of the circle from classmate Rachel Huang and scored with 11 minutes left in the opening period.
But coming out of intermission, the Big Red stepped up their game. It was now the Red and Blue who found themselves pinned down in their defensive end. After surviving a wave of Cornell scoring opportunities from the corner which forced sophomore goalkeeper Liz Mata to make some big saves, the Quakers finally broke with six minutes remaining in the second half. Krysten Mayers took a shallow-angle shot that took a bounce off of Mata’s pad into the back of the net to tie the game.
The Big Red went on to score again just two minutes later, with Marisa Siergiej flipping the ball over Mata off another corner opportunity to put Cornell up, 2-1, with just four minutes remaining in the game.
Finally, Penn woke back up offensively, immediately putting the pressure back on the Big Red. After a few close opportunities, sophomore Gina Guccione scored an unassisted goal in front of the net to tie the game with less than two minutes left.
After a few more regulation opportunities, the horn sounded with the game still knotted at two apiece, forcing the competition into overtime. But this game would not take long to settle itself.
Hoover got the ball at the beginning of the extra period, and she made quick work of her possession. The Collegeville, Pa., native ran straight to the goal, blowing by the Cornell defense with a dazzling array of moves before being fouled in the shooting circle just 17 seconds in, earning a penalty stroke.
With a chance to give the Quakers the win, Hoover flung the ball past Big Red keeper Kelly Johnson for her second goal of the day to clinch a game dominated by back-and-forth action, sending Cornell back to Ithaca with the bitter taste of a 3-2 overtime loss in their mouths.
“Obviously it was critical,” coach Colleen Fink said of the win. “You try to just approach every game like it’s the next game, but this one was meaningful, and the girls really wanted it.
“After last year’s decision against Cornell when we went up there and didn’t play our best, I think that this was very rewarding for them,” she added. “Obviously being here at home, the fans and everyone were so supportive, and I think that definitely goes a long way.”
This game saw more of the same from Hoover, who has been on a tear through seven games this season. She currently leads the nation with 17 goals as well as points per game at 5.29, and got high praise from Fink after the game.
“She’s just got phenomenal hand-eye coordination, and she works tirelessly,” she said. “When somebody is as gifted as she is, a lot of individuals just rely on those gifts, but she couples that with a work ethic and a competitive drive that I would put up against any player in the league.”
Hoover isn’t quick to pat herself on the back either. When asked about her dominance this year, she spoke more of her teammates.
“It all starts from the back field, they work it up and I try to do my best to cut to the open spaces,” she said. “It’s all working off each other, which is the most important part. It’s a team sport.”
The Quakers are back in action on Oct. 3 when they travel to take on Harvard.
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