They are four of the Penn field hockey team's 11 starters, and they share 12 of the squad's 19 total goals thus far. Sounds like the kind of numbers put up by a team's nucleus of upperclassmen, doesn't it? But in reality, they are the statistics of the Red and Blue's sophomore starters, who, only one and a half seasons into their Penn careers, are already making their presence known both on and off the field. "They are all very skilled players, talented athletes and work hard," junior Nikki Battiste said. "Those are the three qualities of a good field hockey player." With forward Ali Corsi with 10 points, midfielders Kylee Jakobowski and Mandy Doherty with nine and seven points, respectively, and defensive back Colleen Connors providing support to a veteran defense, the Quakers have taken their youth - perhaps misconstrued as a disadvantage by some - and have turned it into an integral part of their team. "The upperclassmen give us stability and leadership, and the underclassmen give us a spark, an element of excitement," Penn coach Val Cloud said. Heading into the season, the Red and Blue (2-6, 0-3 Ivy League) had little to be sure of. With only six returning upperclassmen, the sophomores knew they would have an opportunity to earn significant playing time in every game this year. "I knew that each one of us was going to be a huge part of the team," Corsi said. "We worked incredibly hard in the off-season last year. And because there are so few upperclassmen on the team, we all knew that we were going to need to step up on the field." Doherty and Jakobowski were the only members of the Class of 2003 who saw considerable playing time during the 1999 season, each playing in all 17 games for the Red and Blue. Corsi was utilized off the bench in four games. "I was nervous coming into the season, because I didn't know where I would stand. At the beginning of the season I was kind of shocked by my offense for the team," Corsi said of her five goals in eight games. Similarly, Connors had seen playing time in only one game. "Colleen didn't have much playing time," Cloud said. "But this year she has been solid. She's stepping it up, and my defense is coming together." At midfield, Jakobowski and Doherty have provided two solid links between the offense and defense that have been vital to the Quakers' success on the field. "Mandy has good skills; [she's] a great passer; and she's playing good defense," Cloud said. "Kylee is on the other side, and she's a more offensive middie. She's the combination of a good forward and back and has really stepped up in the last couple of games. Without those two positions, that leaves us in limbo." Perhaps even more significantly, the sophomores' contributions on the field have been paralelled by their efforts away from it. During their first season at Penn, the then-freshmen did not have the warmest team experience - there seemed to be a barrier between the classes off the field, which then affected the team chemistry come game time. This year, the sophomores, as well as the entire team, have made it a priority to ensure that the new freshman class feels welcome and views itself as an essential part of the Penn unit. "As upperclassmen, it's easy to forget that freshman experience," senior co-captain Amna Nawaz said. "They have done a good job of bridging the gap between the freshman and the rest of us." And in the eyes of the rookies, the efforts have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. "They've done everything in their power to make us feel at home, not only as freshmen, but just as members on a united team," freshman Emily Farnesi said. "I've never been on such a positive, encouraging team. We get up and cheer each other on. We could be a team where everyone is power-hungry, but we're definitely not." Despite some of their struggles this season, including four overtime losses, every single member of this Quakers squad has definitely taken notice of the solid team chemistry that is present this year. "I think our team is really close, and it makes such a big difference in the way we play together. We just click," Doherty said. "Everyone on this team helps each other out. We are there for each other, both on and off the field." For the Quakers, the best part of it all may not even be what they experience now. The best part will be the pleasure that the Quakers derive from reaping the benefits of this solid chemistry and experience over the next two seasons. News and Notes The Quakers will square off against Philadelphia rival Temple tonight at 7 p.m. at Franklin Field.Comments powered by Disqus
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