Facing fellow 2-1 squad Columbia in a de facto elimination game, the Red and Blue kept their championship hopes alive on Friday afternoon, dominating defensively in a 2-0 win to become alone in third place in the league. Two days later, however, the team failed to bolster its chances of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, losing to No. 18 Delaware by the exact same score.
No Ivy League champion has ever finished with more than one loss, and with No. 3 Princeton and No. 11 Harvard both standing at 4-0 in the league, this year seems to be no exception. Considering that, Friday afternoon was by far the more important contest, and the Red and Blue (7-7, 3-1 Ivy) played like it from start to finish.
Penn’s veteran defensive unit, led by seniors Paige Meily and Karen Seid, helped limit Columbia (6-5, 2-2) to a meager three shots on goal. On the other side of the ball, balance has been the name of the game all season long, and Friday was no exception.
Receiving a stellar cross from sophomore midfielder Jordyn Thies, freshman midfielder/forward Madison Jiranek late in the first half, becoming the fourth player this season to score for the first time as a Quaker. Though that would end up being all the team needed, Penn got some insurance from junior midfielder Alexa Schneck’s team-leading seventh goal in the second half.
“We did a really good job defending outside the [penalty] circle, trying not to let them get many shots off,” Meily said. “And [junior goalie] Ava [Rosati] made some really good saves too, so it was a total team effort.”
With the win, Penn all but eliminated the Lions from title contention. In a interesting bit of irony, Friday was an almost exact replica of last year’s result, when Columbia beat Penn by the same 2-0 score in New York to drop the Quakers to 2-2 in Ivy play.
“I wouldn’t say we treated it like an elimination game, because then every game since the Harvard loss would be one. But we treat each Ivy game the same, and they’re all really important,” Meily said.
Unfortunately for the Red and Blue, they could not keep their momentum going on Sunday afternoon, as they came up short of securing their second top-20 win of the season. The 2016 national champions set the tone early with a goal in the third minute, leading to a cat-and-mouse game the rest of the way for Penn.
And though the Quakers outplayed the Blue Hens (8-6, 2-0 CAA) for much of the game, finishing with advantages in corners (seven to one) and total shots (seven to five), that equalizer never came. Reigning CAA Rookie of the Year Lotte de Koning scored her second goal of the game with under three minutes left to sink the Red and Blue in a game far closer than the final score indicated.
“We statistically dominated a lot of that game, but doing that isn’t enough,” Meily said. “Everyone knows we could have won that game, and we’re all motivated because we know what certain little mistakes we have to fix moving forward.”
So as the team seeks its first postseason appearance since 1993, the path there is clear. To win the Ivy title, Penn would need to win out and hope that Harvard loses somewhere as well, potentially in its huge showdown with Princeton on October 20. Should Harvard finish unbeaten, since Penn is outside the top 25 in the NFHCA Coaches’ Poll, that likely means that the Quakers would need to win out to have a shot at securing an at-large bid.
Thus, with three games left in the season, Penn's mentality is simple. Win, and you’re in.