Penn field hockey's upcoming slate of games this weekend could have Ivy League and potentially even national ramifications.
The Quakers will match up with Columbia on Friday in a battle between two teams currently tied for third place in the Ivy League. The Quakers will then head south on Sunday to face No. 18 Delaware.
Both Penn (6-6, 2-1 Ivy) and Columbia (6-4, 2-1) sit one game behind perennial powerhouses Princeton and Harvard in the Ivy standings.
Though the overall series between these two teams is currently tied at 11 wins apiece, the Lions have had the clear advantage recently. They have won six of the last seven meetings, including last year’s 2-0 game in New York.
Senior midfielder Paige Meily did not mince words when describing the upcoming match with Columbia.
“You always want to get revenge on past losses," Meily asserted. "With Columbia, it’s an Ivy game. It doesn’t matter whether we won or lost in the past, we’re always excited for it.”
The Red and Blue will seek to pressure a Columbia defense that has allowed nearly two goals a game. While Penn has only managed to average 1.25 goals a game, it will aim to ride the offensive prowess of their leading goal-scorer, junior midfielder Alexa Schneck.
As of late, the team is clicking both offensively and defensively. With eight goals in their last four games, the offense has put the Quakers in strong positions to win. This offensive outburst is built on their sturdy defense, which despite going up against six top-16 teams, have maintained a pretty impressive record.
“One overarching theme that we are really hoping to improve upon from last year, and even earlier in the season is just consistency, and putting together a solid 70 minutes of our style of play,” Meily said.
Following Columbia, Penn will be able to look forward to yet another game against a nationally ranked opponent. This time, the Red and Blue will go on the road to face No. 18 Delaware (6-6, 2-0 CAA). This will be the seventh time the Quakers have faced a ranked opponent this season, with the team holding a 1-5 record in those games.
Delaware played Princeton, currently the No. 3 team in the country, earlier in the season and suffered a two goal loss. The game could provide a good benchmark for the Quakers when they square off against their archrival later in the season.
Like the Red and Blue, the Blue Hens loaded up their schedule with tough opponents. In seven games against nationally ranked opponents, Delaware has also won only one of them.
When the two teams met last year, Penn was winless and Delaware held a No. 6 ranking in the nation. Tied 1-1, the Blue Hens scored the game-winning goal in the 54th minute to give them a narrow 2-1 win.
"With Delaware, we've played them the past two years and haven't really gotten to win yet. I think our senior class has an attitude like 'we are going to close it on a win,'" Meily said.
As teams start to separate from the pack both nationally and in the Ivy League, these two games this weekend will be a good test to where Penn stands for the final three weeks of the season.
Two wins against tough opponents could spark the string of performances that the Quakers need to challenge Princeton in the regular season finale.