A short memory can be a useful tool in the sporting world. And as Penn field hockey readies itself for a crosstown match with Drexel this Wednesday, a little forgetfulness will go a long way.
A look at the last time the Quakers (10-2) and the Dragons (6-8) faced each other in competitive play brings us back to 2010 during Colleen Fink’s first season as head coach, a period in which Penn was in dire need of direction.
Flashback to five years ago — the Red and Blue are carrying an eight-game losing streak on their shoulders as they begin the short bus trip to Drexel. On the other hand, the Dragons are coming into the city rivalry fresh off their seventh straight win. A 70-minute onslaught ensues, and Penn is sent packing with a 7-0 loss.
The Quakers would go on to finish that season with a 3-14 record that included two 10-0 thrashings at the hands of Yale and Princeton.
The earliest memories of today’s Penn seniors, however, only go as far back as the 2012 season, meaning that anything further back has survived solely through Fink and her coaching staff, who don’t seem to be losing any sleep over the dark times of the 2010 campaign.
“I do remember it vividly,” Fink said of the 2010 Drexel game. “But the girls on the team don’t, nor do they care. We don’t bring it up. I don’t talk about it with the girls at all.”
As important as it is to move on, a gentle reminder can help put the program’s development in perspective, especially given that this year’s squad looks stronger than it ever has. Under Fink, the Quakers have seen improvement in every season excluding last year. So while a single game cannot define the performance of an entire program, the Red and Blue’s upcoming tilt with the Dragons could shed a little light on how far Penn field hockey has come with Fink at the helm.
“It’s two totally different teams,” Fink said. “It’s a completely different program, so we’re not too worried about it. But the staff and I were just discussing how different it is now.”
The success of this year’s team has drawn few comparisons to that of five years ago. Ambitions are high amongst the players as they sit in second in the Ivy League and are on track to finish with their best record during Fink’s tenure as head coach.
A slight damper was put on the Quakers’ current campaign when their nine-game win streak ended at the hands of Columbia last Friday in a double-overtime thriller, but the Red and Blue rebounded quickly with an overtime winner of their own against Bucknell on Sunday. Drexel presents yet another opportunity for Penn to maintain its winning ways.
“I think our goal for this season is to win from here out,” junior defender Claire Kneizys said. “The Columbia game was a tough loss, but I think that’s only made us come back on fire.”
The surge in intensity that comes with any crosstown rivalry match will serve the Red and Blue well as they look for a second wind to get the season back on track. The Quakers have beaten every City 6 team they have played so far, and the Dragons are the final obstacle in the way of Penn’s claim to Philadelphia field hockey dominance.
“We’re looking to make this Penn’s city,” Kneizys said.
As always, Penn will be looking to sophomore phenomenon Alexa Hoover to start off the scoring. The Collegeville, Pa., native has already tallied 23 goals for the Red and Blue this season, equalling Drexel’s entire team total.
For the Quakers, faith runs deep in Hoover, but having just come off a weekend doubleheader and with an Ancient Eight matchup against Yale coming this Saturday, Penn must keep an eye on the big picture as it goes about its training and gameplay this week. Fink takes pride in the team’s fitness, but the Quakers might look to utilize their depth coming off the bench in their game against Drexel.
Either way, Fink’s team has all the means to win this game and the next. So as long as there are no haunting memories of 2010 holding it back, Penn will look to regain its momentum as this season winds down and, in the process, perhaps remind Drexel that the Penn field hockey dynasty is here to stay.
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