In a weekend of two impressive showings, Penn field hockey notched its first win of the season, beating Villanova, 2-0, on Sunday after falling to Delaware, 2-1, just two days prior.
The Quakers’ 1-3 record is as deceiving as it gets, as two of their losses were to the 2016 NCAA national champion, Delaware, and to national runner-up, UNC. In each contest, despite the final scores, the Red and Blue proved that they belonged.
Coach Colleen Fink said that the early season schedule featuring one tough contest after another provides a good test of what is to come.
“We are just trying to take that next step in the right direction in terms of trying to play really quality opponents that will prepare us for midway, late into the season, and hopefully the postseason,” Fink said.
On Friday’s contest against Delaware (5-1), one would have been hard-pressed to identify which team had just won the national championship. The Quakers mostly dominated play in the first half, but went into halftime down 1-0.
Shortly thereafter, the Quakers got on the board thanks to senior captain Alexa Hoover’s first goal of the season. That momentum led to Penn picking up a flurry of chances. At one point, it looked like the Quakers would take over the game.
Unfortunately, the Red and Blue ran into a spell of bad luck— in the form of penalties. The Blue Hens were awarded four straight penalty corners, one of which led to the game-winning goal. That said, it was another impressive day for the Quakers defense, and the offense showed plenty as well.
Some of that strong play on Friday could be attributed to the Quakers' one major lineup adjustment— the return of captain Jasmine Li. A staple at left back last season, Li was poised to step in at 2016 graduate Claire Kneizys’ former post of center defensive midfield.
However, just a few days before the season opener against Rutgers, Li suffered an injury in practice, leaving her unable to take the field. Her return was a welcome addition to a lineup that previously had junior forward Sofia Palacios playing out of position in the back of the diamond.
“She stepped up into that role with zero experience with two days’ notice,” Fink said of her versatile junior. “She is really one of those players who we look to force corners and she did an impeccable job of that.”
For Li, her season debut was “absolutely amazing,” despite the loss.
“I’m so happy to be out there with the team and contribute any way that I can.”
On Sunday, the Quakers, in search of their first win of the young season, played their fourth straight home game, this time against Villanova. Their quest was more than completed, as Penn not only won but also shut out the Wildcats (1-5), 2-0.
“It literally feels awesome,” Hoover said of the win. “Even though it was a bit of a choppy game, we kept our cool, and I think we did pretty well with what we were given.”
The Red and Blue controlled play for the duration of the game, never leaving Villanova the opportunity to make a play. Hoover picked up two goals, bringing her total to three, and senior goalie Liz Mata recorded a well-deserved clean sheet.
The Quakers arduous schedule continues with another rivalry game on Friday against Drexel. Hoover believes that Sunday’s win has provided the team could spark a change in fortune.
“It’s going to give us all the momentum we need."
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