After enduring a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss to Ivy foe Yale this past Saturday, Penn field hockey took down crosstown rival Villanova, 6-4, in dramatic fashion on Tuesday night, cementing a 5-0 record against Philadelphia-area schools this season.
The Quakers (10-5, 3-2 Ivy) did not get off to the start they wanted; the Wildcats scored a goal in both the 32nd and 33rd minutes of play to take a sudden 2-0 lead. But less than a minute later, sophomore Rachel Mirkin put in a rebound to earn her first career goal, a timely tally that cut the deficit to one for the Red and Blue before halftime.
The second half saw the action break wide open for both teams. In an eight-minute span to begin the half, the Quakers scored three consecutive goals. Senior captain Elise Tilton scored her seventh goal of the season in the 41st minute in between two strikes in the 37th and 45th minutes from junior standout Alexa Hoover.
Villanova, however, would make a comeback of its own. Kristen Mericle scored two goals in four minutes to draw even in the 52nd minute. It was not until Hoover worked her magic in the 67th minute that the Quakers would break the tie. Hoover would then score her fourth goal of the game two minutes later on a penalty corner right before the final buzzer, capping off a rollercoaster ride of a game for the Quakers in the 6-4 victory.
Junior Rachel Huang, senior captain Claire Kneizys and sophomore Sofia Palacios each finished with one assist for the Quakers.
The game saw many ups and downs for the Quakers, who needed every minute of the game to ensure the win despite outshooting Villanova 21-10. While it may not have been their strongest performance of the season, the comeback win shows huge mental toughness and maturity for a team coming off a disappointing conference result just a few days prior.
“There’s obviously some residual disappointment that we’re dealing with,” Fink said after the game. “The main thing that we need to work on is avoiding self-doubt. Sometimes individuals have a bad game, sometimes as a team we may have a bad game, but finding the ability to still have faith in what we’re good at and believe that we are a very talented team while dealing with that disappointment is a really good learning experience for our team, myself included.”
The result simply would not have been possible without Hoover’s monster performance. Each of the four goals came in a timely fashion for Penn, and she showcased exactly why Penn’s opponents struggle to contain her.
“To be honest, I think she’s mad,” Fink said of her star. “She’s mad about what happened last weekend, she’s mad about where we are from an Ivy standpoint, and I think she’s playing with a chip on her shoulder. She’s really trying to lead by example and inspire others through her emotion. She had really good, aggressive goals today and she had a spark in her eye. We want her and all of her teammates to find that fire every game.”
While an Ivy title looks fairly unlikely at this point in the season, the Quakers did get a nice consolation prize from their play on Tuesday: undisputed champions of Philly college field hockey. It’s a title that Fink takes pride in as a Philly native, and the team can take pride in being the best field hockey school in Philadelphia in terms of both academics and athletics.
“We’ve been saying for some time now that we want to be the premier team in the Philadelphia area,” Fink said. “Clearly the Ivy title is always really important, but this is something we’re always going to strive for.”
The Quakers return to action on Homecoming Saturday, taking on Brown at noon.