Penn women’s field hockey head coach Colleen Fink preaches the importance of “the process.”
It’s a process that began a little over three years ago, when Fink took over a Penn team that hadn’t had a winning record since 2006. It was inevitable that there would be an uphill climb, but after a 3-14 finish in 2010, including a 1-6 mark and last place finish in Ivy League competition, it seemed like finishing over .500 in the near future was more of a pipe dream than a goal.
Then the 2011 season rolled around and there were steps in the right direction, as the team finished sixth in the Ivy League at 2-5 and 4-13 overall, but at that small of an improvement rate, Fink’s squad was still largely unproven.
But when 2012 finally came, the mirage of a winning season became a reality. The Quakers finished in the top half of the Ivy League standings at 3-4, and clinched their first winning campaign in six years, coming in with a record of 9-8.
“Everything came together for us last year,” Fink said. “We were disciplined, motivated and hard-working, and it showed.”
Fink gives a tremendous amount of credit to her seniors, who have experienced a litany of trials and tribulations since arriving in Philadelphia in the fall of 2010.
One senior in particular, Julie Tahan, has been an integral part of the Red and Blue’s revival. The two-time captain was tied for the team lead in goals last year and is a playmaker that the offense runs through on most corners.
“Julie is just amazing,” says Fink. “She works extremely hard, communicates and holds herself and her teammates to high standards.”
Tahan believes that the team’s improvement can be traced back to Fink’s coaching style.
“Coach Fink expects a lot from us and it makes us expect a lot from each other,” she said. “We talk a lot about accountability and it’s definitely been an overarching theme in this program.”
And while Fink understands that there is still a long way to go, she is thrilled with the progress that her team has made in such a short amount of time.
Things are looking up for the Quakers, who return all but one goal-scorer from last year, including second-team All-Ivy performers Tahan and junior MaryRose Croddick, as well as honorable mention All-Ivy sophomore Elizabeth Hitti.
But on-field improvement isn’t just limited to personnel. The Red and Blue are changing facilities, moving to the brand new Ellen Vagelos Field.
It may seem surprising that moving out of one of the most historic and celebrated venues in all of college athletics could be beneficial to the Red and Blue, but these Quakers will finally play on the proper field surface, switching from Franklin Field’s SprinTurf to Vagelos’ AstroTurf.
“Franklin Field is an amazing stadium, but getting to play on true AstroTurf is going to be a huge momentum swing,” Fink said. “I wouldn’t say they hated playing on Franklin, but this new surface is definitely a game changer.
Defending national champion Princeton is surely the Ivy League favorite, but Fink still believes that her team can hold its own in the conference.
“It’s a long process, but we’re starting to see our hard work pay off,” she said. “This year will be a success as long as we keep getting better and keep improving our record.”
It definitely is a process, but with committed players and a talented coach like Fink, anything is possible for this year’s Quakers.
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