craziest_moments

In 2017, both Penn men's and women's basketball competed in the inaugural Ivy League Tournaments that were hosted in the Palestra.

Photo: Zach Sheldon

When you give 31 varsity teams a full 12 months of competition, some pretty exciting games are bound to pop up. But 2017 has been a walking hyperbole for Penn Athletics.

With various teams engaging in some instant classic battles, the Quakers have given fans a wild range of emotions throughout the calendar year, with the lone constant being thorough entertainment across the board.

Where to even start? First, one can look at men’s and women’s basketball. The entire men’s basketball 2016-17 regular season was a rollercoaster in its own right, but the way it clinched its Ivy tournament spot was especially crazy — that is, Jackson Donahue’s three-pointer to clinch a 75-72 upset of Harvard.

And yet what happened once the Quakers got to that tournament was even crazier. Entering as a huge underdog to undefeated Princeton, Penn led by 10 points in the second half before falling victim to the Tigers’ late comeback in a heartbreaking overtime loss to end its season.

As for the women? Their regular season might not have been as dramatic, but their postseason made history on a national scale. When the Quakers lost their 21-point fourth quarter lead en route to falling to Texas A&M in the first round of March Madness, marking the biggest comeback in the 36-year history of the women’s tournament, one had to acknowledge it was unbelievable, no matter what his or her rooting interests were.

The drama hasn’t stopped for either team in the brief 2017-18 season. The women slightly atoned for their March Madness result with their own huge comeback, overcoming an 18-point halftime deficit and beating Missouri State in November.

As for the men, they battled La Salle to a 75-71 loss in the first double-overtime game in the Big 5 since 1983 — and they were just getting started. Not even two weeks later, Penn travelled to Monmouth and played the school’s first quadruple-overtime game in 97 (!) years, topping the Hawks in a game that featured Penn blowing a 15-point second half lead, two buzzer-beating shots from Monmouth, and the entire Monmouth Internet collapsing during the third overtime.

Speaking of four overtimes, Penn men’s lacrosse had a similar battle with far higher stakes. Facing conference leader Yale in the Ivy League semifinals, the Quakers played their first four-overtime game in school history, but the team came up agonizingly short in a 13-12 loss. That said, the Quakers still pulled off one big upset in an almost-as-wild 11-10 win over No. 6 Virginia in March.

On the women’s side, after yet another Ivy title, Penn earned a first-round NCAA Tournament contest at home. Despite the result — the No. 7 Quakers’ 11-10 loss to unranked Navy, which featured a furious late comeback buoyed by freshmen Gabby Rosenzweig and Erin Barry — it undoubtedly stood as one of the most exciting games the program has seen in recent years.

How about that football season? Penn’s first two Ivy League games were both decided on the final play, with Dartmouth punching in a one-yard touchdown at the buzzer in a 16-13 win before Columbia overcame a 21-7 fourth-quarter deficit to stun Penn with a 24-yard touchdown pass in overtime for a 34-31 victory — the Lions’ first win over Penn since 1996.

But the latter part of the season saw some epic games finally go in Penn’s favor. On Homecoming, against rival Princeton, Penn got Will Fischer-Colbrie’s best performance of the season, and the Tigers missed a 31-yard field goal with six seconds left to clinch a 38-35 win for Penn. Two weeks later, backup quarterback Nick Robinson led a late touchdown drive before Penn’s defense stopped Cornell at the one-yard line on the final play of the game, allowing the Red and Blue to end 2017 with a 29-22 win.

For Penn’s other teams, the list goes on and on. No. 2 Penn women’s squash memorably came back from a 3-0 deficit to win its national semifinal against No. 3 Trinity. Penn wrestling stunned No. 17 Stanford, 19-17, for its first win against a ranked foe in five years. Penn volleyball had a pair of thrilling five-set wins over Columbia and Yale — the latter of which broke a seven-year losing streak against the Bulldogs. Penn field hockey got arguably its best win in school history when the Quakers upset No. 10 Syracuse, 3-2, using what was likely the best one all-time out of Alexa Hoover’s school record 68 goals to break a tie in the final minutes.

Penn Athletics gave its followers some moments to remember for a lifetime in 2017. And as the calendar soon turns to January, fans and athletes alike can reflect on a year that was consistently, both for better and worse, one for the ages.

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