They don’t want a piece. They want the whole thing.
Fans of rivalries will be happy to know that there is yet another Penn-Princeton game with title implications. Penn women’s soccer already clinched a share of the Ivy League title with a 2-0 win against Brown, but they will take on Princeton to be the outright champions on Saturday. This game also has a redemption element to it, as it was last year that Princeton clinched a share of the Ivy title on Rhodes Field with a 1-0 win on the Quakers’ senior day.
“The rivalry with Princeton does heighten the excitement, but how we train and prepare for the game is the same as any other,” junior defender Laura Hamilton said.
Heading into their final game, the Quakers (13-1-1, 5-0-1 Ivy League) currently sit on top of the Ivy League with one tie, five wins, and 16 points. On the other hand, the Princeton Tigers (10-3-2, 4-1-1) sit in second place with 13 points. A win for Princeton would be good enough to split the Ivy title with Penn. The Quakers need only a draw for the outright championship.
Ivy League bragging rights aren’t the only thing up in the air, as the winner also receives the conference's automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
“Two of our goals since the beginning of the season have been to win an Ivy League championship, and … to compete in the NCAA tournament,” Hamilton said.
With a win or draw, Penn will achieve both goals and head to the postseason tournament. If the Tigers win, the two rival teams will share the Ivy title, but Princeton will earn the NCAA automatic qualifier because of the head-to-head victory.
The Tigers have some recent success in the NCAA Tournament. Just last season, they made it to Elite Eight, stunning No. 2 North Carolina in the process, before falling to No. 4 UCLA.
While Penn has already taken at least a share of its fourth Ivy title, Princeton is seeking to earn its 10th.
On paper, the Quakers look stronger than Princeton this season. Penn has outscored its opponents 30-4, while the Tigers have outscored their competition 23-9. Senior goalkeeper Kitty Qu has only allowed one goal in her past ten games, compared to the six goals let in by Princeton junior goalkeeper Natalie Grossi over the same period.
However, the Tigers hold the better RPI ranking, with Princeton ranked No. 32 this week and Penn taking the No. 58 ranking.
“We want to prove we can play with the best teams in the country and advance as far as possible in the tournament," Hamilton said. "We all know we can compete with the top teams and can’t wait for an opportunity to play for a national title.”
The opportunity to win an Ivy title outright would be an exceptional display of the progress Penn women’s soccer has made in recent years toward becoming a competitive program. Last season's 5-8-3 record and fifth-place finish in conference play has made the Quakers' run in 2018 all the more remarkable.
Beating Princeton would be the culmination of one of the most decorated seasons in program history.