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Junior forward/midfielder Rachel Huang has come through in a big way for the Quakers as of late, with three goals in her last two games. 

Credit: Ananya Chandra , Ananya Chandra

It probably wasn’t exactly how Penn field hockey wanted the game to go, but hey. A win is a win.

After rolling to a 6-0 win over new program LIU-Brooklyn (0-3) on Friday, the Quakers (3-1) made the trip to City Avenue on Sunday to take on crosstown rival Saint Joseph’s. After falling behind by scores of 3-1 and 4-2 as late as the 45th minute, the Red and Blue found a way to force overtime by scoring twice in the remainder of the second half. Seven minutes into overtime, junior Alexa Hoover set up senior captain Claire Kneizys’ game-winning goal off a short corner to stun the Hawks (4-2), preserving the Quakers’ three-game win streak against their Philly rival.

“You hate to go down early like that, and I think it was avoidable,” Penn coach Colleen Fink said. “But I think this game happened at the perfect time. You know we had something so special last year, and we graduated a great class, so it’s hard not to question if we still have that this year. I think people were starting to get nervous like, ‘Shoot, do we still have that? Are we still the same team?’

"But to the credit of the girls who just graduated, I think that what they handed down to these players is that we are a team that doesn’t quit.”

Though the Quakers certainly showed a high level of maturity and resolve to make a comeback like that just four games into the season, the result certainly raises some questions about a Penn side that has allowed four or more goals in two of its four games this season.

The Red and Blue coaching staff decided to make a goalie change five minutes into the second half, pulling junior Liz Mata from the cage in favor of freshman Ava Rosati, who came into the game and made five saves while shutting out the Hawks for the remainder of the game.

“Everyone knows that there’s a competition at goalkeeper, we have four goalkeepers on our roster and it’s not always the easiest situation, it’s very competitive,” said Fink. “My knee-jerk reaction is never to pull a goalie, I try to stick with a goalkeeper as long as I can, because not every goal is a result of poor goalkeeping.

“But, Liz did take responsibility for some of the mistakes that she made and I think that she’s resilient enough that she’s going to be able to bounce back from that. Sometimes people have bad games, it happens. Luckily, we have really qualified personnel that can step in and do the job and I think Ava stepped in and did a phenomenal job.”

That being said, there have certainly been many bright spots for the Quakers so far this season. The offense pumping out goals abundantly, having scored 15 goals in four games. Players all over the field are contributing to the attack, and its showing on the scoresheet. While Alexa Hoover may grab all the headlines for breaking the program points record over the past weekend — and deservedly so — she definitely was not without help.

Junior Rachel Huang has stepped up in a big way for the Quakers so far this season, having posted three goals and two assists in the past two games for the Quakers, while junior Gina Guccione and sophomore Sofia Palacios have also garnered praise from Fink for their contributions, both scoring two goals against Lehigh and No. 3 North Carolina, respectively.

But most of all, it’s the passion and leadership of Kneizys and her fellow senior captain, Elise Tilton, that have been the key components of the Quakers’ early success. Both of them scored big goals against Saint Joe’s and have been working all season to be the best leaders they can be.

“Elise and I have been trying really hard to lead by example, that’s something we really want to do,” said Kneizys. “I don’t think that necessarily means getting your name on the board and scoring. Sometimes it means making the thankless runs, cutting to open up space, and just going 100 percent in everything that we do. Elise and I are trying hard to do that and inspire the rest of the team to do that.”

“Early on here in the season I would describe them as being a little frustrated,” said Fink. “They wanted the team to have a little more intensity, and a little more passion, and they weren’t getting the emotion out of the team that they wanted. So on Sunday, they kind of forged the way and were able to get the rest of the group to follow.”

The Quakers will take on the Stags (1-4) on Friday at 4 p.m. in Fairfield.

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