Growing up comes with added responsibility.
It’s a lesson that Rachel Mirkin has taken to heart so far this season. The Penn field hockey forward is now a senior, and her place on the team has changed significantly.
“I’ve definitely tried to take more of a leadership role on and off the field this year,” Mirkin said. “I’d like to think of myself as a team rallier. I like to motivate people and bring the team together.”
Mirkin’s changing role has largely been the result of losing of several key seniors from last season. In particular, the graduations of Alexa Hoover, Gina Guccione, and Rachel Huang have affected the Quakers (6-6, 2-1 Ivy) significantly, leaving a void that someone needed to fill. As one of only five seniors on Penn’s 25-person team, Mirkin has done just that, becoming a leading voice during games and practices.
Her play on the field has become more impactful as well. After scoring only three goals during her first three seasons as a Quaker, Mirkin has matched that total already this year. In fact, two of her scores have been game-winners, taking out then-No. 14 Wake Forest and City 6 rival Villanova.
“It’s super gratifying, but at the end of the day, I just want us to win,” Mirkin said. “All of my goals have come in a team win. I think we’ve played well in some really big games, and we’ve definitely made strides. I’m just happy to finish for the team.”
Mirkin has also spent significantly more time on the field this season. After never playing more than 28 minutes in a game last year, she has matched or exceeded that number in 11 of the Quakers’ first 12 contests. Whenever Mirkin has had one of her seven shots on goal this season, Penn has won, illustrating her meaningful impact on the team’s performance.
The Red and Blue have had a bit of an up and down season so far, falling to 6-6 after Monday’s 2-1 loss to Lafayette. However, five of those defeats have come to ranked opponents, and Mirkin has been encouraged by the team’s development.
“We have a bunch of different people scoring goals, which is really great,” she said. “We have a lot of depth on the team, and we’re learning that throughout the season.”
However, those positives come with growing pains, which Mirkin understands well. The Quakers have been shut out three times so far this season and have been limited to one goal on five other occasions.
“People are stepping up into different places. We have had some inconsistencies, and we’re learning from those,” she said. “We need to stick to the game plan and do our skills better and have more focus.”
The young team’s maturation will be tested with an important stretch of play to finish the season. In their final five games, the Quakers will face four Ivy League rivals and two ranked opponents, including a challenging matchup at No. 3 Princeton to close the fall on Nov. 3.
The team’s results this season might be ever-changing, but its leadership has been steady and constant. No matter how the Quakers play, Mirkin has been there with words of encouragement and motivation.