All good things must come to an end, and for Penn field hockey, Friday night saw a nine-game winning streak come to a halt.
The Quakers split their two games this weekend, losing for the first time in Ivy League play to Columbia, 2-1, on Friday before bouncing back to earn a victory against Bucknell on Sunday, 3-2.
To begin the road trip, the Red and Blue (10-2, 3-1 Ivy) traveled to New York to face off against the Lions (8-5, 2-2). Penn had not won any of its past four meetings with Columbia, including three consecutive overtime losses. The trend continued Friday night, as the Quakers suffered yet another overtime defeat at the hands of the Light Blue.
The scoring began just three minutes into the contest, with Columbia forward Christina Freibott netting a goal from a short corner. This was on the back of a particularly slow start by Penn, a problem that coach Colleen Fink acknowledged.
“I think we started the game flat, and that was something that lingered throughout the game,” Fink said. “We had some good moments but there was some underlying tightness in the back of our minds that is indicative of the result.”
However, the Quakers managed to get back into the game midway through the half when sophomore Rachel Huang cashed in on a rebound after the Columbia goalkeeper failed to clear the ball. Knotted at one, there would be no more scoring in regulation between the two teams, and Penn was forced to prepare for its fourth consecutive overtime matchup in Ivy play.
The offensive struggle continued into double overtime before Freibott scored the winning goal for the Lions on a breakaway that saw her juke around Penn goalkeeper Liz Mata and slide the ball into an empty net.
“We used and will use the defeat against Columbia to get us more focused on our big games coming up,” star sophomore forward Alexa Hoover said. “We know we can play much better.
“I think we are a strong overtime team. When we get into those situations, I’m not worried because I know our team can handle it.”
Following the loss, the Red and Blue looked to rebound from their first defeat since Sept. 4 on Sunday in a battle with Bucknell (7-8) in Lewisberg, Pa.
The team’s focus was evident right from the beginning, with Hoover slotting home a goal only four minutes into the game after a smart centering pass from junior Elise Tilton. But Penn saw its slender lead slip away midway through the half, allowing back-to-back goals to Kiersten Sydnor to give the Bison a 2-1 advantage at the half.
The Quakers needed a goal, and it came quickly following the restart. Senior attacker Elizabeth Hitti netted the key equalizing score after an assist from Hoover, leveling the game at 2-2.
The teams sparred for the remainder of the contest in search of a winning goal, but when the final whistle blew the score was still tied. To the surprise of no one, overtime was to be played yet again, the fifth time in six games the Red and Blue were forced to play extra minutes.
And following its defeat on Friday, Penn was not ready to lose again. Just six minutes into the extra period, Hoover received an outlet pass from freshman defender Selena Garzio, passed two defenders and struck the ball past the goalkeeper’s foot to give the Quakers the dramatic 3-2 win.
Despite the victory, when reflecting on the weekend’s games, Fink sees a lot of room for improvement.
“I don’t think we played our best hockey this weekend,” Fink admitted. “On Friday a lot of the vulnerabilities we have been getting away with at points this season exposed themselves.”
Although the Red and Blue failed to extend their nine-game winning streak, Fink maintains that the result is only part of the equation.
“Win or lose, I would have evaluated this weekend the same,” Fink said. “We aren’t a team just motivated towards winning. We want to play the best hockey we can, regardless of the result.”
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