2012 was no fluke.
Coming off of a 9-8 campaign from a year ago, Penn field hockey showed that is has what it takes to win a thrilling 5-4 victory over Lehigh in its 2013 season opener.
Things didn’t get off to an ideal start, with the Mountain Hawks (1-3) striking first less than 10 minutes into play, but the Red and Blue (1-0), a team that was goal-starved at times in last year’s campaign, would answer back in a big way.
Freshman Elise Tilton’s career started off in an ideal fashion, scoring a goal to tie the game. Senior Julie Tahan gave the Quakers the lead and Emily Corcoran expanding the Penn advantage to two with a third straight unanswered goal.
Offensively, it was a perfect storm. Coach Colleen Fink’s freshmen made immediate impacts, captain Julie Tahan proved why she’s one of the biggest weapons in the Ivy League and all four classes accounted for at least one point.
“We need and expect everyone regardless of their year to step up and contribute.,” Fink said. “Their upside is part of what makes this season so exciting.”
But with a defensive unit that still has a few question marks, Lehigh got right back into the game, scoring goals just 62 seconds apart on a wild scramble in front of the net and a penalty stroke, leaving the game tied at three heading into halftime.
Though it seemed the Mountain Hawks carried all the momentum going into the second half, the Quakers came out swinging, attacking the net until freshman Jasmine Cole finally forced home a goal that gave the Red and Blue the lead. Penn held onto this advantage for 23 minutes, until Lehigh’s Gabby Tofig used a Penn turnover to score the equalizer with less than four minutes left in regulation.
As the clock ticked down, the game seemed destined for overtime, but an offensive corner with no time left gave the Quakers one final opportunity to come out victorious.
Holding out for a heroine, Penn found one in Elizabeth Hitti, the honorable mention All-Ivy performer from a year ago who fired in a pass from senior Sunny Stirewalt to give the Red and Blue field hockey’s version of a walk-off win.
It wasn’t perfect. With two late goals given up in the first half to allow Lehigh back into the game and then a late breakdown that saw the Mountain Hawks tie the game at four, the Quakers will need to work on finishing off halves and not giving up costly goals late.
“We had some costly turnovers out of the backfield, which was really frustrating,” Fink said. “But we will continue to dedicate time to make sure we don’t have it happen again.”
The contributions came from every class, with the stars playing like stars and role players stepping up to give the squad much needed jolts of life. The freshmen burst onto the scene in a big way, accounting for two goals, and the return of Alex Iqbal added another dimension to an already potent offense.
But the biggest thing the Quakers did was make momentum a non-factor. There were numerous occasions when Lehigh’s spirits were high, but even with their backs against the wall, the Red and Blue kept fighting back, squandering any hopes of a Mountai n Hawk win with quick goals and big defensive stands.
“We respond well,” Fink said. “Our core group of girls are very competitive, and when the other team scores, we take the initiative to get the momentum back.”
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