The year is 2004.
Penn field hockey has just beaten Princeton to win a share of the Ivy League title with Harvard.
Flash forward to 2015.
For the Quakers, it’s Tiger-taming time again.
A win against Princeton (9-6, 6-0 Ivy) would pull the Red and Blue (13-2, 5-1) into a tie atop the Ivy League with the Tigers. Fortunately for the Quakers, the tiebreaker would side with Penn due to the head-to-head result.
To earn the elusive Ivy championship, the Red and Blue will have to take down Princeton in a fiery rivalry matchup at noon this Saturday at Vagelos Field. With the win, the Quakers would also qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993, a time when most current Penn players were not even born.
The situation is eerily similar to two years ago, when Penn had the same scenario and lost, 5-1. Although the memory still lingers in the minds of some of the older Penn players, coach Colleen Fink maintains that the team has moved past it.
“I think the players realize not only that Princeton is a different team now than it was then, but that we are a different team,” Fink said.
One of the big focuses for the Red and Blue is stalling a Princeton offense that has amassed an Ancient Eight-leading 25 goals in conference play, 10 more than the Quakers have netted.
“Our defense has been working hard all season to prepare for strong offenders like the ones Princeton has,” senior defender Nicole Mackin said. “We know what we have to do to stop any strong opponent.”
Mackin anchors a stringent Penn defense alongside junior Claire Kneizys, sophomore Jasmine Li and freshmen Selena Garzio, who was recently honored as the Ivy League Rookie of the Week after her game-winning goal against Brown last weekend.
If the Red and Blue are looking to win on Saturday, they will have to flip the script on the Tigers, a team that has historically dominated the Quakers. In fact, 2004 was not only the last year Penn won the Ivy League — it is the last time it beat Princeton.
Despite the poor track record against the Tigers over the past decade, Fink insists that the Red and Blue head into the weekend confident.
“I firmly believe in this team and this program,” Fink said. “We have fantastic individual players, but more importantly, we’ve been playing together as a team.”
“I actually can’t imagine not winning this game,” senior attacker Elizabeth Hitti said. “It doesn’t make sense in my mind. We all can picture it, we are all solely focused on winning.”
For Hitti, the big game comes the same week as she received an invite to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division I Senior Game. The invite was limited to 38 players nationwide, and Hitti is one of only three Ivy League participants.
Getting invited to such a prestigious event is a testament to Hitti’s record-breaking senior season, which has seen her set Penn records for assists in one season (17) and for an entire career (33).
Despite the high honor, Hitti remains focused on this weekend’s championship-deciding match.
“I am proud of myself, and I am looking forward to playing with the other top seniors on the country,” Hitti said. “But I am 100 percent focused on winning this weekend.
“That’s the vision the team has had all season, and now it’s just about putting the vision into action.”
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