You win some, you lose some. That seems to be Penn field hockey's 2017 season motto.
It was another split weekend for the Quakers (2-4), who took down cross-town rival Drexel, 3-2, before falling to No. 19 Iowa on Sunday, 2-3. Despite the losing effort, the Quakers showed that they could handle a top-20 opponent in the Hawkeyes (4-5).
On Friday, the Red and Blue traveled across University City to take on the Dragons (3-5). For the fourth time this season, the Quakers conceded the game’s first goal, but for the first time this season, the Red and Blue were able to recover and pull out the victory.
“We’re really trying to concentrate, myself included, on being in the moment,” coach Colleen Fink said. “If you worry about the score during the game, especially that early on, it can bite you in the butt. You have to just move forward. The results will come if you stick to the game-plan and continue to work hard. I didn’t feel any different really.”
Senior forward Gina Guccione opened the scoring for the Quakers four minutes after the Dragons’ first tally. It was Guccione’s first goal of the season and one that boosted her play for the rest of the night. She would pick up an assist two minutes later on the team’s second goal and made a few highlight plays with fellow goal-scorer Alexa Hoover.
The game-winning goal came just 10 minutes after Hoover's tally on an attacking corner. Sophomore midfield Alexa Schneck was given a shot on the set piece, one that she drilled into the back of the net. It was her fourth career goal for the Quakers and her first of the season, and the goal served as a testament to the Quakers' work on attacking corners.
“We always do them in practice, but we do a lot of practice on our own, working on our own skills like inserts, stick stops, and for me, my shot,” Schneck said. “We’ve all been doing a really good job of working on our individual skills, and it came together in the game.”
The second half saw a surge of chances for the Dragons, who went with an all-out attack. It was an exciting 35 minutes, one that showed the Penn defense’s heart.
On two separate occasions, junior center back Paige Meily extended her stick mid-stride to stop a surefire goal. One of the team’s premier backs, Meily said that the game-saving plays were a result of Drexel’s up-tempo play.
“They play with high energy, but they also play very aggressively,” Meily said. “We tried to intercept more if possible and force pressure outside of the circle.”
The Quakers allowed one goal in the second half but escaped with a win. It seemed that after two consecutive wins, the Red and Blue were ready to play spoiler against the Hawkeyes.
Unfortunately for the Quakers, any hope of an upset was soon dashed, as the Quakers gave up the first goal and ultimately fell on Sunday, 2-3.
Despite the early concession, the Red and Blue would even the play before halftime with another goal for Hoover, who now has five goals in six games.
Although the Quakers tend to allow the game’s first goal, Fink has no doubt that her team is working hard and staying resilient.
“They’re doing well. We fight. We fight for 70 minutes. I don’t see any quit on my team’s face at all. We’re responding well. But we have to dig. You have to dig the whole game.”
For the first time this season, Penn took the lead against a ranked opponent when junior midfielder Rachel Mirkin found herself in perfect position on a rebound.
The lead would last just over a minute when the Hawkeyes stormed downfield, set up shop in the Quakers’ defensive third and pelted shots at senior goalkeeper Liz Mata. The result: two goals in seven minutes, including the game-winner by Mallory Lefkowitz.
After six out-of-conference games, the Quakers are now heading into Ivy League play at 2-4 and with some noticeable question marks. That said, the team is confident that it will be able to work out those kinks before it takes the field against Cornell on Saturday. Mirkin thinks that the team’s focus should be on attention to detail, among a few other points.
“We have to focus on ourselves more and our own skill. We let up communication in the backfield. And also scoring from the forward line. We’ve had a bit of trouble, but we’re gonna make it work and fight at practice and do a lot better.”
Fink had similar sentiments about the offense but still holds that her team has plenty of promise.
“I don’t think we’re playing poorly but there are some lapses, and when you’re playing strong teams you can’t have those lapses.”