At this juncture in the season, Penn’s fall sports are either entering or have just entered the Ancient Eight part of the year. We asked the editors which team they think is in the best spot headed into Ivy play.
Tom Nowlan, Sports Editor:
If the past is at all prelude, field hockey is best-equipped for a title run.
After being an overtime goal away from a conference championship a season ago, the Red and Blue have hit their stride right away in 2016. They sit with a pretty 6-2 record and have already recorded a tough road win against Cornell in their first Ivy game of the season.
Yes, the team lost some key seniors after last season — most notably midfielder Elizabeth Hitti. Without the distribution skills that led her to lead the conference with 18 assists a year ago, the Quakers have had a few growing pains in their transition game. Still, their stout defense has already pitched three shutouts and has kept the team in games, even when the offense isn’t firing on all cylinders.
Last season, the team’s goal-scoring was essentially a one-woman show: then-sophomore Alexa Hoover led the conference (by a lot) with 27 tallies. This year, the attack has only three scores as the team has shifted to a more balanced offense: three different players — Gina Guccione, Sophia Palacios and Rachel Huang — currently outpace Hoover with four goals on the season.
But even with its star in something of a scoring slumber, Penn has bounced out to a quick start to the season. If and when Hoover heats up and the midfield gains experience, the Quakers will be a tough team to beat in Ivy play.
Will Snow, Sports Editor:
The best team headed into Ivy play has to be women’s soccer. The caveat with my claim is that the team has already played its first Ivy League match — a 1-0 loss to Harvard. And while the Quakers may not have played spectacularly, the game was decided by a highly controversial penalty that really should not have stood.
But Coach Nicole Van Dyke’s system is finally starting to reveal itself in her second year in charge. Harvard notwithstanding, the team has been scoring goals for fun — 12 goals in its first five games — and not letting in many, either: 6 goals conceded in seven games so far, with three coming from a strong Maryland side.
A loss to Harvard is bearable, considering they could win the Ivy League this year. But the Quakers should make a run in the coming weeks to make their case for why they belong in the top half of the conference and maybe even the top couple spots.
Freshmen Emma Loving and Emily Sands are showing they belong in the starting XI already, but they’ll surely improve as they settle further into the team. Loving and Sands have five goals and two assists between them in seven games, but the stats don’t tell the full tale. Sands’ footwork and Loving’s technique indicate that the talent is there, and as the chemistry develops more, their midfield/attacking partnership could flourish into the most potent in the Ivy League.
Tommy Rothman, Sports Editor:
There’s no such thing as an Ivy League title in sprint football, on account of there being just two Ancient Eight teams competing at the varsity level. But Penn is well positioned to win something even bigger: a national championship.
The Quakers are off to a 2-0 start after a drubbing of Mansfield on ESPN 3 and a huge win over Army. The Black Knights squashed the Quakers’ dreams at a title last year and claimed it for themselves, but the Red and Blue got their revenge on Friday when they beat Army 14-9. Other than Navy, there aren’t any real threats to Bill Wagner’s squad, so the Quakers have very few hurdles to clear to make the coach’s 47th season a triumphant one.
As for Ivy supremacy, Penn’s lone Ivy foe, Cornell, is already a game behind the Quakers at 1-1, so Penn can pretty much wrap that up with a win against the Big Red on Oct. 28.
In addition to Wagner’s endless supply of experience, Penn has a star quarterback in the form of Mike McCurdy, who broke the program’s all-time passing yards record last week and, for what it’s worth, has a hell of a voice. Wide receiver Andrew Sutton has done a nice job filling in for 2016 graduate Henry Mason. And the defense has been stout so far, allowing just 16 points in two games.
The University of Pennsylvania will soon be on top of the sprint football world.
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