The Red and Blue experienced both a high and a low during their season-opening weekend.
This weekend, unranked Penn field hockey participated in the inaugural ACC and Ivy League Conference Crossover, splitting a pair of games against No. 14 Wake Forest and No. 2 North Carolina. Playing against a powerhouse of a program in UNC and a top-15 team like Wake Forest, the Quakers knew they were in for a challenging weekend to say the least.
Penn started off the weekend with a bang on Friday, upsetting the Demon Deacons in a thrilling double-overtime win. In a showing of two strong-willed defensive lines, there were only six total shots on goal during regulation play. Penn sophomore goalkeeper Ava Rosati made three key saves for the Quakers to keep them in contention throughout regulation and overtime.
Regulation time came and went with no goals from either side, leading to the first overtime period, when Wake Forest held possession but could not break through Penn's back line.
Later, with just 4:33 left in the second overtime period, senior forward Rachel Mirkin grabbed a loose pass in the midfield and got the ball to freshman Maddy Fagan. Fagan then crossed over the shooting circle and passed to junior Alexa Schneck, who hit a backhanded pass back to Mirkin. Mirkin finished the play off by driving the ball to the back of the goal, giving the Red and Blue a walk-off victory.
Two days later, though, the Tar Heels showed no mercy, dominating from start to finish in a decisive 8-0 win.
The Quakers were able to hold UNC to just three goals in the first half, but over the next half, Penn’s defense began to wear down against the sharp, creative, and fast-paced play of UNC.
In fact, UNC scored a pair of goals within the first three minutes of the second half. Still, Rosati stood as strong as she could in goal, making eight major saves as UNC hit 16 shots on goal throughout the game.
No. 10 Princeton was the other Ivy League team to compete in the Conference Crossover Weekend. Impressively, the Tigers held their own against the Tar Heels on Friday, but still lost to the powerhouse 1-0. On Sunday, they were able to beat Wake Forest in a definitive fashion by winning 4-0.
What did this weekend mean for Penn field hockey? For one, it proves that in a close game against a respected opponent, the Red and Blue are extremely capable of competing and battling for the win. On the other hand, it highlighted the defensive holes and the need for a consistently cohesive offense.
All in all, the Quakers, after gaining valuable experience against top-15 teams, have a better idea on what they need to do to improve for Ivy League play in order to reach the NCAA tournament later toward the end of the season.
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