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Stars Alexa Hoover and Elizabeth Hitti have put the bulk of the numbers up so far this year for Penn field hockey, but the Quakers have relied equally on supporting players like freshman Selena Garzio to provide depth.

Credit: Ilana Wurman , Ilana Wurman, Ilana Wurman

As Penn field hockey has demonstrated this year, having star players is nice, but it takes a full team to win.

Winners of their past six games, the Quakers are ready and raring to travel to Cambridge, Mass., this weekend and challenge a red-hot Harvard squad.

The Crimson (5-2, 1-0 Ivy) look to keep their home undefeated streak alive when they welcome Penn (6-2, 1-0 Ivy) in what could be a high-scoring affair for both sides. Although the Quakers have 28 goals to the Crimson’s 18 this season, both sides have been highly successful on the attack and feature their own superstar duos.

For the Red and Blue, attackers Alexa Hoover, who leads the nation in scoring, and Elizabeth Hitti, who is on pace to break Penn field hockey’s season assist record, have headlined an offense that is poised to break records. For Harvard, junior attacker Marissa Balleza and senior back Elizabeth Jacobson have teamed up for an impressive 13 goals and four assists thus far.

As a team that prides itself on its impressive attack, Penn has had a successful offensive game plan to date. And according to junior forward and captain Elise Tilton, they are not looking to change that.

“I think it’ll be the same as we always do. We have a really fast offense with quick play, and we work really well up the field,” Tilton said. “We play a passing game, and I think we’ll stick to it and be able to move around their defenders.”

This passing-oriented game has been able to work largely because of the team’s depth beneath its stars, and coach Colleen Fink will be the first to remind you of how successful the team’s offense — and not just Hoover and Hitti — has been.

“They just are really strong in transitioning the ball into the offensive end,” Fink said. “Whether it’s [sophomore midfielder Gina Guccione] doing that, whether it’s Elise counterattacking and doing that, or [freshman] Selina Garzio through the center midfield, they’re all critical to transitioning the ball to attack and maintaining possession in the attacking third.”

“I think that’s what makes our offense so strong,” Tilton added. “Everyone contributes, everyone is capable.”

Defensively, the Red and Blue will look to maintain their recent solid play. Junior back Claire Kneizys has been a revelation in the backfield and is a key cog for the squad. Fink specifically praised Kneizys for successfully following the old adage that “the best defenders don’t [play defense].”

Meanwhile, on the outside, Nicole Mackin and Jasmine Li have also come about with some game-changing plays of their own.

Penn will lean heavily upon its defense on Saturday against Harvard’s high-powered scoring duo. Sophomore goalkeeper Liz Mata, for one, believes that the key to stopping the Crimson on offense will be mostly about “the basics, but then also making sure we’re focusing on and being aware of these two offenders.”

Mata, like the defenders, has also stepped up her play lately, and should continue to improve as the backs become more acclimated with one another.

Overall, Fink and the team’s approach to the game will not be different than usual, even though the Quakers just took down another formidable Ivy opponent in Cornell.

“I think any time you win an Ivy League game it’s a small victory to the big puzzle that is the Ivy League championships,” Fink said. “Each game is critical, and you just approach it one game at a time and hope for the best and hope to play our best.”

And for the Quakers, “playing their best” means getting contributions from everybody — and certainly not only their star goal scorers.

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