In many ways, Penn field hockey has reversed its luck from last season.
But on Saturday, the Red and Blue will look to have a similar result to last season, as the Quakers are facing a Yale squad that they beat last year, 3-2.
While the Elis (6-7, 2-2 Ivy) have been in the middle of the Ivy pack, Penn (10-3, 3-1) has already surpassed its win total from last season.
A major reason for Penn’s resurgence has been the stellar offensive production of junior Emily Corcoran.
Corcoran is having such a stellar year offensively that even her coach can barely believe it. When asked about Corcoran’s 32 points through 13 games, coach Colleen Fink’s first reaction was, “Wow. Is that what it really is?”
Not that she is surprised at Corcoran’s abilities — she isn’t. It is simply an unbelievable number for any Division I field hockey player, let alone one that tallied eight points in 17 games last season. The junior has more than double the amount of points this year than she had in her freshman and sophomore campaigns combined.
Last year, Corcoran was seventh on the Quakers in points per game. This year, she is ninth in the entire country.
But how does such a drastic transformation occur in just a few months?
Part of it is the increased talent that Fink has brought to the program. Freshman Jasmine Cole is a prime candidate to make the Freshman All-American team as she leads the country in goals per game and points per game. Between Cole and All-Ivy performer Julie Tahan, Corcoran has plenty of talent around her to work with.
But Fink attributes it to two main changes — Corcoran’s role offensively and her dedication during the summer months.
Despite playing center forward, Corcoran played a prominent defensive role last season that often consisted of flying all over the field to help with the opponent’s transition attack instead of focusing on scoring goals of her own.
The addition of Cole has allowed Tahan, a midfielder, to play both sides of the ball, giving Corcoran the opportunity to wait in the attacking zone and find the back of the net.
The Ivy League and ECAC Player of the Week additionally spent a great deal of time this summer working with assistant coach Katelyn O’Brien, perfecting her shot that at times betrayed her last season.
“Turning those great chances last year into goals this year has really been the biggest difference,” Fink said. “She’s got a natural mind for offense, it was only a matter of time before she capitalized.”
And it’s not just the quantity of points Corcoran is putting up, it’s the quality. Corcoran’s big coming out party was the home opener, where she christened Ellen Vagelos Field with a goal just 33 seconds into the game and added another in Penn’s upset win over Cornell. Since then she’s added two overtime game-winning goals, proving her ability to remain effective for the duration of the game.
At 3-1 in the Ivy League and still in control of their own destiny if they knock off Princeton in the finale, Penn and Corcoran have a chance to surprise everyone in the Ivy League.
And if Penn is going to defeat Yale on Saturday, it will all start with Corcoran.
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