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Junior Sydney Huang passes the ball during a game against Cornell on Oct. 10. Credit: Carol Gao

Close to two years off doesn’t stop Sydney Huang. She keeps grinding.

The Dallas native came to Penn after winning the USAFH Region 6 Club Championship and earning All-Conference honors. In her freshman campaign, she made 14 appearances and earned two starts. One of those starts came in her first career game, where she logged a season-high 36 minutes against Monmouth. 

As a junior, she is off to a blazing pace, appearing in all of the Quakers' games. She has scored two goals this season, one against North Carolina and another against Princeton.

Huang was initially drawn to Penn for its combination of a world-class education and an opportunity to play field hockey for coach Colleen Fink.

“I would just say that first off, Penn is a beautiful school. Every year I think I fall in love even more with the campus, but aside from that I think the program for field hockey and the academics [is top notch],”  Huang said. “To have that and hockey was great. And my older sister played at Penn too, so I feel like I knew coach Fink a little bit coming in, and my sister had great things to say about her, so I was drawn to this program specifically.”

Her sister, Rachel Huang, played for Penn from 2014-2017 and was a team captain in her senior season. Though she had a strong example of success at Penn, the younger Huang is paving her own way.

Like many Penn athletes, Huang's sophomore season was washed away after the Ivy League canceled fall sports in 2020. Huang took that as an opportunity to work even harder, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

With the loss of her sophomore season, Huang did not have the chance to make the minor step into a smaller leadership role on the team. Instead, she had to take a giant leap from playing as a freshman to being a junior. She has used her experience as a freshman looking up to the then upperclassmen as a model for how she leads. This year she became more vocal on the field, helping the freshman who came in this season with a shortened high school career.

From the beginning, Fink saw her potential and allowed her to showcase her talent, which has led to her development as a player. Huang will continue to develop as she goes further into her junior season.

“I think that you know we had a lot of faith very early on with Sydney, if you look back in her history, she started her first game as a freshman,” Fink said. “I think we saw a great potential even you know, extremely early on in her career, and she's really continued to develop as a player not only just her technical skill, but I think more importantly she's grown tactically. She still has things to work on, and it is continuing to pursue those things, but ultimately, I think she's grown tremendously.”

Off the field, Sydney has a lot of the intangible characteristics that make her an incredible teammate. She wants to see her teammates succeed both on and off the field.

“I think she's a glowing example of what Penn field hockey represents and what we all aspire to be,” Fink said. “I’m just so incredibly proud and happy for her that she's having such a great season.”

Huang's goal is to win a championship for the Quakers, and she believes that her team is in a good position to make it possible. It would be a great end to the last two years of struggle.

“I have my eyes on an Ivy League championship,” Huang said. “I believe that our team works incredibly hard. Over quarantine, we were putting in the work and compared to what I know about other Ivy League field hockey programs, we were doing a lot and were dedicated to the program and coming back strong. I think with our attitude and how driven we are, we can claim that championship, that title. I can feel how good it would be to win, and that is what I am after. That is what I want for the team. To finally have the huge win after and that sense of triumph and feeling like all our hard work over the past year is coming to fruition.”

Past her playing days, she looks forward to being a proud Penn field hockey alumnus like her sister and has gratitude for the program and the family that she is now a part of.

“I think college changes your life for any person respectively, but I think for me this program has left a big impact on my life and will continue to in the future,” Huang said. “I know it is still two years away, but I know the alumni network is very big and committed to giving back to the program. I'm just happy to get part of the Penn field hockey team and family.”

While Penn field hockey will have its ups and downs over the next year, there is one constant they can rely on — Sydney Huang.