Despite the loss against No. 1 North Carolina, Penn field hockey showed some progress as it closed out its opening weekend in New Jersey.
The Quakers (0-2), having lost their season opener against Louisville, hoped to get their first win in the Ivy League/Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Crossover at Bedford Field on Princeton's campus. Going up against a nationally ranked team would be difficult, but Penn hoped to impress on the field with their new players and new plays.
Despite the Tar Heels (2-2) defeating the Red and Blue soundly 9-1, the loss did not deter the Quakers on the field, who were facing off against the three-time defending National Champions.
North Carolina took the lead in the first four minutes with a corner strike by senior forward Erin Matson, with assists from junior back Madison Orobono and senior midfielder Eva Smolenaars. The Tar Heels added two more goals to establish a 3-0 lead going into the second quarter.
An additional pair of goals in the second quarter gave UNC a five-goal lead. Desperate to chip away at this deficit, Penn fought back as junior forward Sydney Huang scored a deflection off a penalty corner to put Penn on the board, notching her first collegiate goal wearing the Red and Blue. Captain Gracyn Banks came through with her first assist of the year to help Huang.
“Sydney Huang's goal was highlight worthy,” coach Colleen Fink said. “She's been playing extremely well and coming into her own. I'm so proud of her."
With the fourth quarter came strong moves from the underclassmen players. Sophomore goalkeeper Sabien Paumen pushed back against North Carolina with a strong defensive save, while sophomore goalkeeper Hayley Hayden played hard in her collegiate debut. Freshman midfielder Sophie Freedman also contributed with the first defensive save of her collegiate career.
In the end, North Carolina fought back and scored four unanswered goals, the last coming on a penalty stroke.
Despite the lopsided end result, the newest Quakers displayed their skills in their debuts, while the returning players demonstrated the work they have put in during the team's extended off-season.
"Every game, we identify ways to get better," Fink said. "Despite the score, honestly there were the same two or three issues occurring, so we can address those and improve dramatically.”
Putting the loss into perspective, Fink notes that it takes persistence to build chemistry, especially given the large amount of underclassmen taking the field for the first time.
“I learned we are young and inexperienced,” Fink said. “It's going to take time and patience from our staff and teammates. The freshmen and sophomores are incredibly talented and will continue to develop but that development doesn't happen overnight. You can't expect them to know what they don't know. They bring a great energy and are contributing in major ways.”
The Quakers will have a chance to address the issues they saw throughout the game ahead of Friday's home opener against Drexel, where they will aim to secure their first win of the season.
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