No cupcake games. That seems to be the theme of the Red and Blue’s schedule this season.
Penn field hockey will look to build some momentum going into league play with a pair of tough non-conference games this weekend. The Quakers are traveling to Iowa City where they will take on Iowa this Friday before making a quick turnaround back to Philadelphia to play Sunday against neighboring Drexel at Ellen Vagelos Field.
The Quakers will fly to Iowa on Thursday, the longest trip in terms of distance the program has taken in at least the last decade.
“This is actually our first time flying [as a team],” junior center forward Alexa Schneck said. “It will be an experience, but I’m really excited for it. I think it will be a good bonding experience.”
The Red and Blue (2-2) hope to make a statement against the No. 16 ranked Hawkeyes (5-1) in their fourth time playing against a ranked opponent this season. Iowa got the best of Penn last season with a 3-2 victory in Philadelphia.
The two teams have already had a couple of common competitors this year in No. 24 Wake Forest and No. 1 North Carolina. Both squads beat the Demon Deacons and fell to the Tar Heels.
Iowa’s defense has been a particular strength this season, as the group has allowed just four goals in its six games. Junior goalkeeper Leslie Speight and her 25 saves are a big reason for this early success. On offense, the Hawkeyes are led by the dynamic duo of sophomore forward Maddy Murphy and junior midfielder Katie Birch. The All-Big Ten pair has a combined 27 points on the year.
Following Iowa, the Red and Blue will face a more familiar opponent in Drexel (4-2). Penn has won the last three contests against the Dragons, most recently with a tight 3-2 victory last fall. The Quakers are being careful to not take their opponent lightly, though, especially considering the fact that they will have just returned from Iowa City on Saturday.
“[Drexel has] very good forwards who are fast and have really hard shots on goal,” Schneck said. “So I think working on our disciplined defense will help us for that game as well.”
Two Drexel forwards who Schneck may have been referring to are junior Tess Bernheimer and senior Megan Wiest, who are first and second on the team in total points, respectively.
In order to slow down the talented offenses of both Iowa and Drexel, Penn will be making some adjustments on both sides of the field.
“We’re totally changing our formations over the next coming weekend and just looking to improve off of the loss [to Saint Joseph’s],” Schneck said. “[Last weekend] we struggled on outletting a little bit, and we’re focusing more in building numbers in the midfield to generate more offensive opportunities. Also, in terms of improving, we really want to work more on being disciplined on defense.”
A key part of this defensive effort could be the play of senior defender Paige Meily and sophomore defender Reese Vogel. Meily has been placed on the All-Ivy list each of the past two seasons, while Vogel has started in all 21 games since her arrival on campus last year. Additionally, junior goalkeeper Ava Rosati is looking to add to her current total of 20 saves on the season.
The goal for the Quakers is always to come away from a weekend with a pair of wins. If they can accomplish that against a couple of solid clubs this Friday and Sunday, then they will be in a great position with Ivy play starting the following weekend.
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