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Field Hockey v. Yale 10/23/2011, Penn loses 2-1 Credit: Alexandra Fleischman , Alexandra Fleischman

At a rain-soaked Franklin Field early yesterday morning, the Penn field hockey team ran drills on the track, practicing precision passing and ball control before this weekend’s matchup with Brown.

Yes, the track — not the turf.

It’s a problem Penn often faces when it has to travel to play a team with an AstroTurf field, the default playing surface in Division I field hockey. Unfortunately for the Quakers, Franklin Field is composed of Sprinturf.

The original plan was to travel to Temple’s field for a 7 a.m. practice, but when one of the vans that was supposed to transport the players wouldn’t start, the team had to stay at Penn and improvise.

“While it’s not ideal,” coach Colleen Fink said, “we try to make the most of it.”

The overwhelming majority of D-I programs play on AstroTurf, where games play faster on its carpet-like surface than on Sprinturf, which is more similar to grass.

So almost every time Penn has to travel, it prepares for the quicker gameplay by practicing at either Temple or Drexel.

Or on the Franklin Field track, if there is no other option.

“We have to practice on [AstroTurf] before we play an away game, because if we don’t, it would just be such a hard adjustment,” said freshman MaryRose Croddick. “I’d say it’s almost two times as fast.”

Even Rider coach Lori Hussong, whose team defeated Penn, 7-1, on Wednesday, echoed Penn’s sentiment.

“Teams that have the luxury of playing on AstroTurf definitely can develop their stick skills and passing game more easily than teams that play on field turf,” Hussong explained.

The Broncs, who also play on Sprinturf, boast a 16-1 record this season, but do not find themselves in the Top 20, likely due to an inability to schedule top-quality opponents.

“Scheduling a home game is sometimes very difficult,” Hussong added, explaining that AstroTurf teams typically will not play games on a non-AstroTurf field. Indeed, Rider has played only three nonconference home games to nine on the road.

In addition to practicing and scheduling challenges, players on the team also have to make sacrifices in the classroom — sacrifices that wouldn’t be necessary if Penn had an AstroTurf field.

In order to get in a quick practice on Brown’s AstroTurf, the Quakers will head north early today. As a result, some players will have to skip Friday’s classes.

“Having our own field, we could practice in the morning, everyone could go to classes, and we could leave in the afternoon,” senior Erin Healy said. “That would be the ideal situation.”

For Fink, the decision to play on AstroTurf before away games simply comes down to making the most of a difficult situation.

“We’re trying to be the best team that we can be — so it’s our choice that we are going to Temple, going to Drexel,” she stated. “I have to do everything in my ability and power to put my team in a position to win.”

And until the Quakers have an AstroTurf field on which to play, they’ll have to continue dealing with inconvenient travel, scheduling difficulties and skipping classes.

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