With a number of Penn teams starting their respective seasons this weekend, here are three pressing questions that will be answered by next week.
How will field hockey fare against top 10 competition?
This weekend, Penn field hockey will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to face No. 10 Wake Forest on Friday and No. 1 North Carolina on Sunday for its first matches of the season. The Quakers opened their 2018 season against these two opponents, beating the Demon Deacons, 1-0, and losing to the Tar Heels, 8-0. With the loss of several impactful seniors, the Red and Blue will look to prove that they can still compete against the nation's premier teams.
Senior forward Alexa Schneck, who was a first team All-Ivy selection in 2018, says that the team’s mentality going into matchups against top teams is no different than its usual mindset.
“It definitely is a big opening weekend, and we are super excited to play them," Schneck said. "We honestly have been treating it the same, and want to treat every team we play the same and, no matter what, always play our strongest.”
These games will serve as an opportunity for the Quakers to start the season on a good note.
“I think it definitely sets a high tone for the rest of the season. The games are going to be very intense and we’re going to come out really strong and I think that’s a great way to start the season. Last year, starting off with an [overtime] win against Wake [Forest] was a great way to start the year. We definitely aim to maintain this intensity the entire season.”
Can cross country get off to another hot start?
The men’s and women’s cross country squads will head to the Bronx, N.Y. to compete in the Fordham Fiasco on Saturday. The course will be a 5K in Van Cortlandt Park. While a finalized list of all the teams has not been released, last year’s meet saw runners from Yale, Princeton, Lipscomb, Manhattan, Fordham, St. John’s, Florida Gulf Coast, and other schools. Penn did not participate in this race last year.
Last season, both the men's and women's teams placed first in the Bison Open, which was their opening meet. The Quakers are poised to have similar success this in New York this weekend.
Senior captain Maddie Villalba says the focus of this meet won’t necessarily be the times runners achieve, but rather familiarizing themselves with the course, which will be the location of this year’s Ivy League Heptagonal Championships.
“Besides being the competitive start to our season, this first meet is significant because the course is actually the course we will race at the Heps," Villalba said. "Van Cortlandt is infamous for being a very hilly, challenging course, and the Fordham Fiasco provides valuable exposure early on in our season. We won’t be too worried about the clock on Saturday; we’re aiming to gain some familiarity with the back hills and better prepare ourselves for the championship race in two short months.”
Will women's soccer defend its home field as well as it did last year?
The Quakers will look to continue their recent dominance at Rhodes Field, a place where they lost just one game last season. To senior goalkeeper and captain Kitty Qu, playing at home represents a sense of familiarity and pride that can’t be achieved anywhere but Rhodes.
“It’s such a privilege to play on a well-maintained, well-taken-care of field such as Rhodes. We not only love playing on Rhodes because of the actual field itself, but also the atmosphere created by our families and friends who come watch. We just get so much energy from that, and just being able to prepare for a game in a familiar setting where we train and spend a lot of time, there’s just a sense of comfort in that which I feel helps us perform well."
For Qu, there’s a defensive and protective mentality that motivates the team at home as well.
“There’s also just nothing like playing a game on Rhodes. We always say that Rhodes is a fortress, so we always go in with this 'whatever it takes' mentality in order to take responsibility to defend it. I would also say that we take a lot of pride in not allowing goals on Rhodes along with playing well on our home field, and I think a lot of that is due to the ability to play in front of our fans specifically and to do right by a field that we claim to be our home.”
Similarly, senior forward Emily Sands believes that playing on Rhodes incites a mentality that the team does not get on the road.
“Rhodes Field is our home and we take that pretty seriously. Since I was a freshman, it has been instilled in me that we win on Rhodes and we don’t allow anyone else to score on Rhodes," Sands said. "It is our 'fortress' as we call it and we have to defend that. I have done my best to instill that mentality in the classes below me. That mentality about playing on Rhodes gives us the biggest advantage I think.”
Given this mindset, it looks like the Quakers will have a strong advantage at home this season.