It’s not about how many times you fall down, but rather how many times you get back up — and Penn field hockey emphatically did the latter on Saturday afternoon.
In the Quakers’ first contest since taking a 6-0 loss at the hands of defending Ivy League champion Harvard — the team’s worst loss since 2014 — Penn made sure it wouldn’t feel that sting twice in a row. Led by a shutout from goalie Ava Rosati, the Red and Blue trounced Dartmouth, 3-0, seizing their largest margin of victory all season to stay in contention for their first Ivy League title since 2004.
“[Last weekend] definitely fueled us — all the games are important, but I think coming off of that loss, it fueled us even more to kind of refocus and regroup,” Rosati said.
Though the Red and Blue (5-5, 2-1 Ivy) and Big Green (4-6, 1-2) held identical records entering the matchup, Penn — ranked No. 24 in RPI due to its notoriously tough schedule — was heavily favored over No. 54 Dartmouth, and it was apparent to even a casual observer that the Quakers were the far superior team from the start.
Dominating possession from the onset with pristine ball movement, the Quakers found themselves with scoring opportunities early and often. And only nine minutes in, Penn converted on one, as junior forward Sofia Palacios penetrated from the left side and found senior Gina Guccione to give the Quakers a scoring advantage they wouldn’t relinquish all afternoon.
Though a few frustrating misses prevented Penn from building on its lead further in the first half, a lockdown defensive effort catalyzed by a series of steals from juniors Karen Seid and Paige Meily kept Dartmouth’s scoring chances to a minimum in the opening frame.
And while Dartmouth may have thought it had life coming out of the intermission, the Red and Blue put any thoughts of a comeback at bay with their continued selfless aggressiveness on offense. Not even three minutes into the second half, senior Rachel Huang gave Penn an insurance goal following a series of deflections in front of the net.
Only twelve minutes later off of a penalty corner, Meily assisted to sophomore Alexa Schneck, who placed a ball perfectly in the bottom left corner of the goal — marking the second time all season that three different Quakers have scored a goal, and putting the match completely out of reach for the Big Green.
“I’m hoping [that balance] is a product of that structure being implemented, with more certainty and clarity for the offense,” Fink said. “Obviously it’s gonna be critical; you can’t just have one strong offensive threat on the field.”
Given how much the Red and Blue offense was clicking, Penn likely didn’t need Rosati to stand out in her second career start, but the breakout effort from the sophomore certainly didn’t hurt matters. Thrown into the fire of Ivy League play following a season-ending ACL injury to senior Liz Mata, Rosati was constantly bombarded in her starting debut at Harvard, but her first career shutout proved that the underclassman is ready for the big stage.
“Obviously I felt horrible for Mata, and I know our whole team is supporting her through that injury, but I think the coaches have done a good job preparing us all for anything that could happen,” Rosati said. “We just kind of just try to control what we could.”
Though Penn’s stellar defensive effort didn’t put her in too many compromising situations, the sophomore stepped up to the plate when needed in order to keep the goose egg intact. Even as the Big Green began to chuck up desperation shots, Rosati stood tall time and time again, making saves with her arms, legs and even one off her stick deflecting off the crossbar, to wow the Ellen Vagelos Field crowd in her first home start.
“You don’t want that to be the situation – not for Liz Mata, and not for a less senior goalkeeper coming in — but she was able to respond really well today, put last Saturday behind her and move forward,” Fink said. “She’s a very talented and special goalkeeper, and we have a lot of confidence in her.… I’m not surprised at all about this week’s performance.”
Though the Red and Blue can rejoice at getting back above .500 in conference play, the road is only tougher from here since no Ivy League champion has ever finished with two or more losses. As daunting as running the table might seem, Penn is confident it can succeed with a one-game-at-a-time mentality starting with the team’s next conference game at Columbia (5-5, 2-1) on Friday.
When asked if Penn could run the table in Ivy League play, Fink gave one simple reply:
“Yes, I do.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.