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Last season’s bitter finale overtime loss to Princeton still lingers, but Penn field hockey is set to move forward and try to win the Ivy this year.

Credit: Julio Sosa , Julio Sosa

As far as bitter losses go, this one was a fourteen on the p.H. scale.

Penn field hockey came into the final game of its 2015 season looking to do something it hadn’t accomplished in over a decade: win a share of an Ivy League title. However, one crushing overtime later, the Red and Blue were forced to settle with a frustrating end to the season.

Princeton used a sudden-death goal from then-sophomore Ryan McCarthy to polish off their perfect 7-0 conference record, giving the Tigers the Ivy title for the 11th consecutive year and 21st time in 22 seasons. The Quakers dropped to 5-2 in conference play, still matching their best mark of coach Colleen Fink’s six-year tenure.

“We were a really cohesive unit coming into that game, which is why we were able to stick together through that really difficult time,” Fink said of the loss. “That really speaks volumes to the character of the girls on the team in that [the loss] didn’t turn into anything in terms of blaming or negativity.”

Princeton took an early 1-0 lead on a goal from then-senior standout Maddie Copeland, a lead the Tigers held for most of the game. However, with three minutes remaining, then-freshman Selena Garzio found the back of the net off of a penalty corner to knot the score at one and keep the Quakers’ hopes alive.

“She’s been doing really well on that short shot from the straight insert all week long,” Fink said immediately after the game. “We were confident at that juncture of the game that she’d be able to finish, and she did. She executed it perfectly.”

Though things would end quickly just three minutes into overtime, Penn is quick to look at the game as a learning experience that capped a largely successful season, one that proved the team to be oh-so-close to Princeton’s equal.

“We were kind of on our heels at first,” senior captain Elise Tilton said of the game. “Over the years we built up Princeton as this team that’s, ‘Oh wow, [2012] NCAA champs.’ But they’re not the team they used to be, and we’re not the team we used to be, either.”

“It’s definitely heartbreaking to think about, but it’s just something that makes us want it more,” senior captain Claire Kneizys added. “We lost in overtime, and we’re not going to let that happen again. It did definitely unify us.”

The Quakers lost several key pieces following the season — Ivy assists leader Elizabeth Hitti graduated and Garzio, the team’s second-leading goal scorer, left the team. However, the Quakers will return their most important player, two-time defending Ivy goals leader Alexa Hoover.

Hoover scored 27 goals in her sophomore campaign a year ago, 11 more than any other player in the conference. Her 1.69 goals per game was the second-best in all of Division I.

Also returning to the team — along with Tilton and Kneizys — will be junior attack Gina Guccione, expected to increase her role on offense, and starting goalkeeper Liz Mata, the league’s leader in goals against average a season ago.

Furthermore, Princeton will be hampered by the loss of Copeland, the conference’s 2015 Offensive Player of the Year, to graduation.

“Copeland did what she did well,” Fink said of the departed star. “They were a strong team with a lot of talented players.

“But so are we.”

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