Penn field hockey is going big-game hunting.
The Quakers took down Brown, 2-1, in their penultimate league matchup this past Saturday, their last contest before trying to take home the big prize — a win in the proverbial Ivy League title game against the Princeton on Saturday.
The Red and Blue (13-2, 5-1 Ivy) struggled early on, letting up a goal from the Bears’ Jaclyn Torres and failing to find the net themselves, though not for lack of trying. The Quakers outshot Brown (6-9, 1-5), 10-7, in the first half but couldn’t translate their attempts from the field onto the scoreboard. Despite the lack of numbers in the first half, Penn stayed calm.
Coach Colleen Fink drew upon her team’s history of come-from-behind wins to influence her and her team’s mindset going into the second half of Saturday’s game.
“I still felt confident going into the second half,” Fink said.
“We’ve been in a lot of situations like that this year, and we pulled from a game like Drexel, where we were down early and went into the half down one, but scored five goals in the second half and ended up playing very well.”
Any nervousness about a lack of scoring dissipated thanks to junior midfielder Elise Tilton, who scored the Red and Blue’s first goal within five minutes of the beginning of the second half.
“We started the first half on the wrong foot, but we came into the second half and played our style of field hockey,” Tilton said.
“Scoring the goal was a relief, but [it] solidified that we were capable of both winning and scoring, as well as settling the tension we had and allowing us to play back in our rhythm.”
Tilton’s goal was followed up only a minute and a half later, when freshman Selena Garzio put the ball into the high left part of the net to give the Quakers the 2-1 lead.
“It was a big deal to score a winning collegiate goal, and I think we played with more intensity after that. We had the security to step it up and start to play Penn field hockey,” Garzio said.
Though the offense found its rhythm in the second half, sophomore goalkeeper Liz Mata held down the fort for the Quakers on the defensive end throughout the game, posting a critical save off of a penalty stroke.
“It’s quite unusual to see that, as the advantage is clearly to the offensive player,” Fink said.
For Mata, this feat was all about keeping her head in the game.
“Strokes are 90 percent mentality, you try to get focused on the ball and clear your head. Getting into that mentality helped me to save it,” she said.
Staying true to their brand of field hockey and keeping their confidence level high will be critical in the upcoming Ivy title game against No. 20 Princeton. Though the Tigers are a formidable opponent, the Red and Blue have had no lack of high-profile opponents, falling by only a goal to 10th-ranked Liberty on Sept. 4.
While their 13-2 record speaks for itself, the Quakers have kept a level head in the midst of an outstanding season.
“We put the games in our past behind us, even when we’ve won. We’re very down to earth, and we take things one game at a time,” Garzio said.
Penn will rely on its forward-minded, aggressive mentality to try to pull out a win against the rival Tigers in the face of adversity. When taking Brown down, it was just enough.
“Strong teams find a way to win,” Fink said. “There was a lot of pressure and a lot of things on the line today, but we found a way to prevail.”
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