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As the saying goes, it’s always darkest just before the dawn.

Penn field hockey will certainly hope that adage rings true as it prepares to host a pair of games against Columbia and Longwood this weekend.

The Quakers (4-6, 1-2 Ivy) are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, with two of the three losses coming on the road. After falling to Dartmouth in Hanover, 5-3, on Oct. 4, Penn lost to Monmouth at home last Thursday before enduring a 9-0 thrashing at the hands of No. 2 Maryland in College Park.

Luckily, the latter two games were nonconference battles that will not impact the Quakers’ most important statistic: their Ivy League record. Penn has played only three of its seven games in the Ancient Eight, having beaten Harvard and fallen to Cornell and Dartmouth. Columbia (8-4, 2-1) will be an important measuring stick, coming in tied for second in the Ancient Eight — just one game behind Cornell — and on a two-game winning streak.

The Lions are powered by a very deep offensive attack. Senior midfielder Zoe Blake leads the Ivy League with 11 goals on the season, while sophomore attack Katie Ruesterholz has added nine of her own. Midfielder Christina Freibott has a league-high 18 assists, twice as many as her nearest challenger.

Freibott’s penchant for setting up teammates earned her this week’s Ivy League Player of the Week award, the first by a Columbia player since September 2012. The junior tallied a goal and four assists during the week, leading the Lions to nonconference wins over UMass and Towson.

On Sunday, the Quakers will jump right back into action for yet another nonconference matchup when they welcome Longwood (5-9) to Ellen Vagelos Field . The Lancers are coming off a 3-0 victory over Davidson on Monday. Longwood’s offense is powered by junior attack Jennifer Burris , who leads the team with eight goals on the season.

Much like Penn, Longwood has been challenged with top-tier competition. Last Friday, the squad hosted North Carolina, the No. 1 team in the nation. Although they didn’t allow a goal for the game’s first 17 minutes, the Lancers eventually wore out en route to a 7-0 loss.

Despite the team’s recent struggles, the Quakers still boast quite a bit of offensive firepower of their own. Freshman sensation Alexa Hoover has scored nine times on the season, while her mentor, senior forward Emily Corcoran , is close behind with eight tallies.

When Hoover and Corcoran take the field on Saturday across from Columbia’s Blake and Ruesterholz, four of the Ivy League’s top six scorers will be on display.

While Penn’s nonconference play has not gone well as of late, it can be valuable preparation for the games that really matter: those against Ivy League opponents. This weekend, the Red and Blue get a bit of both worlds.

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