Sure, it’s early. Five months early, to be exact. But if last weekend was any indication, take the over on any 2017 Penn field hockey betting odds.
Coming off a frustrating third-place finish in the Ivy League last fall, the Red and Blue have entered the offseason hungry to get their first Ancient Eight title since 2004, and it showed in their first spring tournament. Hosting Rider, Lafayette, Lehigh, Columbia and 2015 NCAA Champion Syracuse, the Quakers finished 3-0-1, taking first place and putting the field hockey world on notice that this team is ready to compete with the nation’s best.
A 2-1 win over Lafayette featuring an Alexa Hoover game-clinching goal in the opening match wasn’t unexpected, but handling Syracuse — which finished the most recent regular season ranked No. 3 in both the National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll and RPI — would be no easy task.
But only six months after then-No. 1 Syracuse trounced the Red and Blue, 4-0, Penn proved that 2016 is entirely in the past. Boosted by a goal from sophomore Rachel Mirkin — who only scored once during the entire 2016 regular season — off an assist from Sofia Palacios, the Quakers salvaged a 1-1 tie against the defending NCAA quarterfinalists.
With 1-0 wins over Rider and Lehigh, both including shutout efforts from junior goalie Liz Mata, Penn finished its first spring tournament unbeaten, making a major statement.
Of course, scheduling tough is nothing new for Penn. In addition to the Orange, the 2016 Red and Blue also faced off against then-No. 1 UNC and Delaware, which proceeded to win the national championship.
Next season, all three foes return to the schedule, in addition to Big Ten powers Iowa and Rutgers, which will provide thorough tests for a Red and Blue squad returning all but two starters.
Until then, though, the Quakers will continue their spring season, hosting Monmouth and American this Saturday before playing in the City Six tournament on April 23. And if those events look anything like the most recent one, the Ivy League best be on watch.
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