They say defense wins championships.
But while its too early to talk about championships for Penn field hockey after only one Ivy League contest, it looks like the team’s offense is ready to prove this well-known maxim wrong.
After losing to Liberty on the first day of the 2015 season, the Quakers’ attack has been nothing short of unstoppable in the three weeks since. In fact, the offense has been more than dominant over the current six-game win streak.
It’s been historic.
Anchored around senior star Elizabeth Hitti and sophomore phenom Alexa Hoover, the Quakers (6-1, 1-0 Ivy) have scored 28 goals in only seven games, compared to just 45 throughout the entire 18-game 2014 season. If they keep scoring at this pace, the Red and Blue would have 64 goals for the 2015 season, which is only comprised of 16 games.
That all goes without mentioning Hoover’s insane personal scoring run. So far, the Collegeville, Pa., native has already notched 17 goals, three more than her total from all of last year and only four away from Penn’s all-time single season scoring record.
She ranks first in the nation in goals per game with 2.43, putting her ahead of No. 1 Connecticut’s leading scorer, sophomore Charlotte Veitner. And this impressive performance has not gone unnoticed on the national level: Hoover was pictured in the “Faces in the Crowd” feature of this month’s edition of Sports Illustrated.
“She clearly has a knack for scoring,” coach Colleen Fink said. “She’s got great hand-eye coordination, and she wants the ball at the end of the game.”
However, Hoover isn’t the only Penn player making an appearance on national lists. Hitti ranks fifth in the nation in assists per game with 0.86 and has already matched her 2014 assist total of eight.
Fink also praised Hitti as a special player who has the unique ability to transition the ball offensively.
“When we have been stuck in the defensive end for a bit, she will make herself available and has the stick-handling ability and the creativity to help work the ball up field,” Fink said.
To put Hoover and Hitti’s accomplishments in perspective, Yale as a team only has eight goals and five assists ... total. Additionally, Hoover herself has more goals than Brown (11), and is tied with Harvard’s overall scoring output.
With this duo at the helm, even the best defense in the Ivy League, Cornell, could not halt the surging Quakers this past weekend.
Last year, the Big Red allowed the fewest goals in the Ancient Eight and notched the most shutouts, finishing third in the overall standings at season’s end. But the Cornell defense could not hold off Penn’s attacking prowess on Friday, as the Red and Blue stormed back to win, 3-2, in thrilling overtime fashion.
Hoover and Hitti are not only impressive in their own right; their ability to work together on the field elevates the performance of the team at large.
“I love playing with Alexa,” Hitti said. “We joke when the coaches yell at us for not talking that we don’t really need to. It’s just that chemistry you don’t always find with every player.
“She knows when I’m hitting the ball in. I know when she’s going to cut, so even if we aren’t talking, we are constantly moving off each other.”
Hoover doled out equal praise for her teammate.
“It’s awesome [playing with Hitti],” she said. “We get so pumped for each other.”
So what sparked this ridiculous outpouring of offense in 2015? It comes down to hard work and a team effort — which includes the defense too.
“We really started to jell over the spring,” Hitti said. “We are really focusing on offense throughout the entire field. It’s not just getting it into the circle and getting shots, its stepping up on defense and pressuring there. It’s the midfield striking balls in the circle so the offense has more opportunities.”
For Hoover personally, the defending Ivy League Rookie of the Year believes confidence and experience have contributed to her prolific goal-scoring, specifically “not being afraid to step up in those big spots.”
The Quakers have the ability to continue their offensive success as they enter the bulk of Ivy play. And, if the team can do so, it might have a shot at the record books — but not just at Penn.
If the season ended today, Hoover would rank second all-time in NCAA history in single-season goals per game. Let that sink in.
But the numbers are not all that matters. For now, be it because of their defense or their offense, the Red and Blue have their eyes set on a championship.Comments powered by Disqus
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