“All for Gretta.”
That’s what Saturday’s 3-1 victory meant for junior forward/midfielder Sydney Huang and the rest of Penn’s field hockey team.
The Red and Blue (6-6, 3-2 Ivy) hosted its annual Pink Game on Saturday for Breast Cancer Awareness, emerging victorious against the visiting Yale Bulldogs (6-8, 2-3). This game had a special meaning to the team following volunteer assistant coach Gretta Ehret’s diagnosis with stage IV metastatic breast cancer in August, 2019.
“We were playing for something bigger than ourselves today," coach Colleen Fink said. "It was our Pink Game, and we take a lot of pride in that. We were playing for Gretta Ehret and others in our community that have struggled with breast cancer.”
Ehret, a former graduate of Penn and captain of the 2009 team, was added to the coaching staff for the 2021 season. She has also partnered up with Student Health Services to create breast cancer awareness seminars for female athletes at Penn to partake in.
In moments where the Red and Blue were faltering, Gretta was the team's reminder to push through and persevere.
Coming off of back-to-back wins against Cornell and Brown, the Quakers were able snap Yale’s winning streak, as the Bulldogs were coming into Saturday’s matchup off of back-to-back wins of its own.
“The confidence factor coming off of wins has just such a great impact on the team,” junior midfielder Meghan Ward said.
The Red and Blue were able to put away two quick goals in the opening 10 minutes of gameplay. Off an assist by junior forward Julia Russo, Ward scored her fourth goal of season only 35 seconds into the game.
Sophomore forward/midfielder Allison Kuzyk put Penn up 2-0 with her third goal of the season just nine minutes later, after an assisting pass from Ward. Penn ended the quarter with five total shots, holding Yale to zero.
Converting turnovers into opportunities was the key for Penn’s success in the first quarter. Sophomore forward Lis Zandbergen's turnover-turned-breakaway helped initiate the team's first goal.
Maintaining the lead was not easy though. Yale upped its aggressiveness in the quarter that followed, but it was no match for the Red and Blue’s excellent stickhandling skills. Diving efforts by Huang nearly gave Penn a three-goal lead heading into halftime, but Yale's sophomore goalkeeper Luanna Summer successfully blocked the shot. Penn finished the first half outshooting Yale 7-3.
The Bulldogs attempted to flip the script in the second half by dominating possession, forcing turnovers, and capitalizing on misplays. They outshot the Quakers 6-3, but sophomore goalkeeper Sabien Paumen snagged two more saves and only allowed one goal in the 47th minute.
Penn didn’t leave this goal unanswered, though. Six minutes following the score, Penn earned a penalty corner. However, junior defender Elita Van Staden’s shot was blocked by Summer. The Red and Blue quickly grabbed another chance on a corner in the 57th minute. This time around, Van Staden succeeded and her assisting pass to Ward put the Quakers up 3-1 to secure the win.
“We stuck to our game plan of trying to come out strong in the beginning with those quick two goals. But the other part of that was to have the mental toughness to push to have that third goal earlier in the game, which didn’t happen. So that’s something we can keep pushing to do,” Ward said.
With her second goal of the game and fifth of the season, Ward now leads the team in goals and points, at five and 12 respectively.
Looking back at the past nine matchups between the Quakers and the Bulldogs, Penn has now taken eight of them. Saturday’s victory extends the Red and Blue's winning streak against Yale to four.
Penn evens its overall record to 6-6 and climbs to a conference record of 3-2. Penn will look to extend its winning streak to four on Sunday with a matchup against the University of Delaware (8-7) in Newark, Del.