Without Julie Tahan, Penn field hockey’s remarkably rapid turnaround over the past few years simply never would have happened.
The attack arrived at Penn in the fall of 2010 to a team with a first-year coach and a seemingly insurmountable climb to respectability. The program hadn’t finished with a winning record since 2006 and was fresh off a 5-12 finish in 2009, plus the 2010 campaign did little to provide any hope of brighter times ahead.
But despite the team’s 3-14 finish, things were actually getting better at Franklin Field. Coach Colleen Fink had a star in the making in Tahan, who started 15 of 17 games for the Quakers and tied for the team lead in goals.
“That first year wasn’t easy,” Fink said. “[Julie] came in with a brand new coach, brand new ideas, but she embraced it early on.”
And though the 2011 season only provided a slight improvement in record, Tahan had a season to remember. As a sophomore, she led the team in every major offensive category, including goals, assists, points and shots.
But along with her on-field dominance, Tahan also stepped into a leadership position and was rewarded with the team’s captaincy as a junior.
In 2012, she tied for the team lead in goals and finished second on the squad in points en route to a second-team All-Ivy performance and — more importantly — a winning record for her team.
That winning record wouldn’t have been possible without Tahan’s heroics in the final field hockey game ever played at Franklin Field.
Tied 1-1 with Brown in overtime, Tahan found herself with the ball in front of the net and sent home the winner to give the Quakers their ninth win of the season, clinching that long sought after winning record.
“It was exciting and nerve-wracking,” Tahan said. “But to come out with the win was a great memory.”
There’s no coincidence that Penn’s first winning season in seven years was with Tahan at the helm.
The team’s mentality is completely different from that from the time Tahan arrived in Philadelphia. With a new emphasis on accountability, the results have gotten much sweeter.
“Our coach got the ball rolling and made us realize that we could also push harder and do more,” she said. “We all hold each other to a much higher standard, and it’s made us better individually and as a team.”
“Julie has embraced change from early on, and that’s why she’s in the position she’s in today,” Fink said. “She’s a workhorse. She has the ability to win the ball back on defense but is also fast enough and powerful enough to make a difference on offense.”
And with a pristine new field and one year left to cement her legacy, the bar is set higher than ever for Tahan. As co-captain of a team that expects to win double-digit games and the Ivy League aware that she’s Penn’s go-to threat, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on Tahan to succeed.
“It’s a challenge to be a leader and perform at the same time,” Fink said. “But I really think she can do both.”
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