The Penn field hockey team snapped a three-game losing streak in spectacular fashion last night, blanking Delaware, 4-0, to record its first shutout of the season. Quakers forward Mandy Doherty scored her two goals of the game just five minutes apart in the first half to put Penn (2-6) ahead, 2-0. Fellow forward Nikki Battiste then followed with two of her own. Her first gave the Red and Blue a 3-0 lead before the half, and her second came midway through the second half to secure the game's final tally. Penn starting goalie Katie Davis and reserve keeper Carrie Wilhelm switched at halftime to share the shutout of the Blue Hens (3-8, 1-1 America East). Team members, though, said that it was the whole Penn squad that deserves credit for the triumphant victory. "Everybody was playing better today," Penn co-captain Monique Horshaw said after the game. "We were playing like a team the whole game. It was a big improvement because we played a whole 70 minutes. That hasn't happened so far that much in the season." Late-game letdowns have indeed been a problem for the Red and Blue. On multiple occasions they have allowed teams to claw back from halftime deficits and then take Penn down in overtime. The Quakers have already recorded four overtime losses this season. Yesterday's shutout, though, could be a sign that the young Quakers are maturing. Despite a late offensive surge by the Blue Hens in the last 15 minutes of the game, Penn's defenders and Wilhelm confidently kept any balls from getting into the back of the net. "They came at us hard, but we shut them down," said Horshaw, who plays center back for Penn. This defensive poise late in the game to preserve the shutout is a sign to Penn coach Val Cloud that her youthful team has taken the next step in its development. "I think we grew up a lot tonight," Cloud said. "You need a game like this, and I think finally we cracked the bubble. We're going forward from here." Fittingly, this push forward for the Quakers was set in motion by Doherty, one of their own forwards. At the 18:53 mark in the first period, the Penn sophomore came down the middle and connected on a long cross from the far side of the field to put the Quakers up, 1-0. She followed by executing the same weak-side play just 4:36 later, extending the Penn lead to 2-0. This use of the cross deep in the Blue Hens' territory was something Cloud had emphasized with her team in the practices leading to the game. "We were trying to get the ball out of the middle of the field so much," she said. "[I wanted them to] get the ball in behind the defense lower down instead of attacking from in front of them. "We executed that beautifully." After notching the two goals, Doherty seemed to hand the goal-scoring duties to Battiste. The Penn co-captain took the cue, scoring on a penalty stroke with 11:36 left in the first half to put the Red and Blue up, 3-0. Keeping the Blue Hens' offense at bay for the remainder of the half, the Quakers hit the locker room at halftime excited at the prospect of a win. Cloud, though, made her team realize that the game was still in question with 35 minutes to play. "I told them that you don't sit back and open the door for them. You have to think, OThree's not enough,' because from experience, three might not be enough." The Quakers responded to their coach's dose of reality on both sides of the field in the second half. With Cloud's words in their minds, Horshaw and her fellow defenders continued to shut down the Blue Hens' offense as the game drew on. "We thought to ourselves, OWe aren't losing the lead,'" Horshaw said. With its defense standing strong for over 23 minutes, the Penn offense finally increased its lead on Delaware with Battiste's second goal of the game. The co-captain netted the ball at the 11:36 mark during a scurry at the Blue Hens' goal after a shot was blocked by the Delaware keeper. "It was kind of a mess in there," Battiste said. "I just got my stick on the ball. It was a scrappy goal." No matter how the goal came, the offense had done its job for the game. It was now time for the defense to preserve the shutout. It turned out to be a struggle for the Quakers' backfield. "It got tough at the end because we couldn't get [the ball] out of our zone," Horshaw said. Yet the Penn defense managed to keep the ball out of the net through some great saves by Wilhelm. "It's always helpful feeling in the back of your mind that your keeper's going to be backing you up," Horshaw said. "We're confident that it's all going to work out." And that it did for the Quakers, who not only preserved the shutout but gained confidence with the victory. "We all ran out onto the field at the buzzer," Battiste said. "Everyone hugged, and they were hard hugs. It was a very much-needed win."Comments powered by Disqus
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