To say Penn field hockey coach Colleen Fink entered the history books with a bang last weekend would be an understatement.
With perhaps the finest weekend sweep the team has seen in school history, Fink not only secured her first career win over a top-10 ranked opponent in Syracuse, but she also hit the century mark by securing her 100th and 101st all-time wins as a collegiate head coach (with 32 of the wins having come at Haverford College).
And while Penn’s eighth-year coach is certainly looking forward to her next hundred wins, The DP is taking time to reflect on the past. By any definition of the word, Fink has transformed the Red and Blue program in her brief tenure here. After going 1-6 in Ivy League play in her debut season in 2010 and finishing in the bottom half of the league in each of her first three years, she has taken the Quakers from pretenders to contenders, as the team has already clinched its fourth winning season in Ivy play in the last five years.
A rise to prominence like that doesn’t go without some epic memories along the way. So as wild as Penn’s upset last weekend was, was that Syracuse win the most memorable of her career to date? While certainly in the conversation, the other highlights of her career can’t be ignored:
First notch on the belt: Penn 1, William and Mary 0, September 11, 2010
The first win is always the most memorable one, and Fink didn’t have to wait long to secure her opening win at Penn. After being waxed by Rider, 8-3, in the season opener, Penn responded with a 1-0 win over William and Mary to officially put Fink on the board. The first-year coach wasn’t the only rookie to stand out, as then-freshman Sunny Stirewalt scored the game’s lone goal to break a late second-half tie and give her coach her first win in a Red and Blue uniform.
First notch on the [Ivy] belt: Penn 3, Columbia 2 [OT], October 17, 2010
Everyone knows the conference games always mean something extra, and Penn couldn’t have asked for a much more thrilling way to give Fink her first ever Ivy League win. Having lost their first three Ivy League games by a combined 12 goals, the Quakers would be denied no longer. Trailing 2-1 in the 64th minute, Penn managed to force the game to overtime, where a walk-off goal from then-senior Laurel McGarvie took Penn out of the Ivy League’s cellar.
Rise to relevance: Penn 4, Harvard 3, September 22, 2012
Penn was still searching for a signature conference win to assert itself as a contender, and early in Fink’s third season, the Red and Blue got just that. Though Princeton’s been the Ivy League’s juggernaut throughout the 21st century, Harvard has played a strong second fiddle, having made the NCAA Tournament four times in the new millennium (no Ivy besides Harvard and Princeton has made it once in that time). And after falling to the Crimson in each of Fink’s first two years, Penn got two goals and an assist from then-senior Sarah Hasson to pull off the upset, letting the Ancient Eight know that the Red and Blue were on the rise.
Though only one game is listed here, just about anything from a historic stretch in 2015 could qualify for this list. After falling in its season opener, Penn won nine straight games — three of them against Ivy foes, with all three coming in overtime — for the longest winning streak of Fink’s career. The month-long stretch was defined by the coming out party of then-sophomore Alexa Hoover, who finished the year second in the nation with 27 goals, including a school record five goals in a win over Saint Joseph’s. And perhaps the image of Penn’s season came against the Big Red, when Hoover converted on a penalty stroke in overtime to send the Ellen Vagelos Field crowd into a frenzy.
Having just been eliminated from Ivy title contention, Penn had another championship to fight for, holding an unblemished mark in City Six play entering a showdown with Villanova. And in an epic back-and-forth contest, the Red and Blue would triumph to finish as the undisputed Philly champs for the second straight year. Though the team went down 2-0 in the first half, Hoover would put the team on her back late, finishing with a season-high four goals as the Red and Blue completed a wild comeback to seize local bragging rights.
If one strictly looks at the quality of the opponent, there’s no argument for any other game but this one. Having won the national championship as recently as 2015, Syracuse entered the contest against the Quakers ranked No. 10 in the NFHCA poll, having upset then-No. 2 Duke only two weeks earlier. But the Red and Blue wouldn’t back down, hanging in the game on the back of two Gina Guccione goals. Then, with under seven minutes to go, history would be made — on a play that would be featured by ESPNW and the NCAA, Hoover struck perhaps the with a volley into the top-left corner, sending Syracuse home stunned and putting the Red and Blue in the history books.
Which one was best? Depending on the traits one values most, the answer could vary, but there is one viewpoint that’s pretty unquestionable. With No. 14 Princeton coming up on Saturday, Penn has the chance to knock off the Tigers for the first time since 2004 — and if the Red and Blue could finally top their biggest rivals on Homecoming, on Senior Day, to spoil Princeton’s dreams of a perfect Ivy season, it’d be a pretty clear choice for that number one spot.
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