There is a simple explanation to the surprisingly fast start to the Penn field hockey team’s season — the revival of its offense.
The Quakers (3-1) have already scored 16 times this year — an average of four goals per game — which amounts to three-fourths of last season’s total output.
In 2011, the Red and Blue netted multiple goals in only four of 17 matches. This year, they’ve done it in every game so far.
The numbers don’t lie. Penn’s resurgence on the offensive side of the field has sparked the entire team.
“I think it’s great to be able to rely on the offense in that capacity,” coach Colleen Fink said after Sunday’s overtime loss to Appalachian State.
And indeed, the Quakers will have to rely on their attack against Rider on Wednesday night.
The Broncs (3-1) have allowed only four goals this season, including three in a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Drexel. Since then, Rider’s goalies have been beaten just once.
Last year, the Broncs beat the Red and Blue, 7-1. But this time around, Fink’s revamped team has the potential to break Rider’s defense.
“Our assistant coach [Katelyn O’Brien] works with the attack, day in and day out, and she’s just always on them about being relentless and being high-risk takers,” Fink said.
Leading the effort will be junior captain Julie Tahan, who leads the Quakers with five goals and is already one score away from evening her team-leading performance in 2011.
But while Tahan’s performance could be expected, the emergence of other players is what has made the difference this year.
Behind Tahan, Amelia Cohen and Sunny Stirewalt are tied for second with three goals each. Cohen had never scored prior to this year, and Stirewalt has already bested her personal record.
Also on the rise is freshman Elizabeth Hitti, who has compiled two goals and three assists.
But given that the Broncs’ offense has been as explosive as Penn’s recently, the Quakers will have to focus on more than just scoring goals.
This year, the Red and Blue have struggled to hold leads due to an often-maligned defense which has already surrendered 12 goals.
Against Appalachian State, that tendency eventually led to the team’s first loss.
“Obviously we would like to address the area defensively so we’re not relying on [the attack] 100 percent in every game,” Fink said.
For these two vastly different teams, the winner may be determined by which style of play prevails when Penn’s high-octane offense squares off against Rider’s stout defense.
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