On the road against two top-10 opponents to start the season, Penn field hockey struggled to find its footing.
To begin their year on Friday, the Quakers fell, 2-0, in a tough battle against No. 10 Wake Forest before falling to No. 1 North Carolina by a score of 6-0 on Sunday. After a scoreless first period in the first game, the Demon Deacons (1-3) found the back of the net in the middle of the second period.
The Red and Blue (0-2) locked up on defense after conceding the first goal, as senior goalie Ava Rosati made a bevy of saves to keep it at a one-point deficit. With three minutes left in the contest, however, Wake Forest scored again to go up 2-0 and put the finishing touch on the game.
“All season long, we are going to be facing tough competition,” Rosati said. “Especially with a short preseason, we have to use every game as a learning opportunity and make sure we come out even stronger in the next game.”
Sophomore defender Madison Woods was a bright spot and a feel-good story for Penn. Woods, who suffered a season-ending injury in the second game of the season in 2018, started for the Quakers and made a defensive save, the first of her career, in the second quarter.
“It's been quite the journey since I got injured last year, but anytime I was doing an exercise in physical therapy, or learning how to run again with my workout packet, I kept a vision of taking those first steps back onto the field,” Woods said. “It was even more special knowing how much my team has supported me during recovery, so I almost feel like I have to give it back to them by trying my very hardest whenever I'm practicing or playing in a game.”
Following the defeat to Wake Forest, Penn played the defending national champion Tar Heels (4-0) on Sunday afternoon, dropping the game in a shutout. Once again, the Red and Blue got off to a strong start defensively, holding North Carolina scoreless with six shots and three saves by Rosati.
The majority of the damage came in the second period, as the Tar Heels opened up the scoring at the 18:48 mark. They would go on to score four more goals in seven and a half minutes to take a commanding 5-0 lead after two periods.
“Although we didn't get the outcomes we wanted, I think we did a decent job of communicating with each other and adjusting to the other teams' style of play,” Woods said.
Even with the large deficit, the Quakers came out hot defensively in the second half, keeping the Tar Heels off the board in the third period. With both teams stagnating for most of the fourth, North Carolina added another goal to its total with less than three minutes left in the contest. Rosati compiled five saves in the fourth period and ended the game with a career-high 12.
“It was great to see some freshmen getting solid playing time. The entire freshman class is very strong and bring a whole new level of energy to the team,” Rosati said.
The Quakers will next travel to West Long Branch, N.J. to face off against Monmouth on Friday, as they look to get into the win column for the first time this season.
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