On a beautiful Saturday in November, Penn field hockey ended its season against Dartmouth as the Quakers celebrated their seniors.
Despite a class that had their careers marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, Penn (9-7, 5-2 Ivy) was able to come away with a gritty 2-1 win against Dartmouth (4-13, 0-7 Ivy). With the win, the Quakers finished the season in third place, behind nationally-ranked Harvard and Princeton.
All of the seniors started the game, including Madison Jiranek who had been out for the season with an injury.
“I think it was you know a really good opportunity for a lot of team contribution for it to be a team win,” coach Colleen Fink said. “It is great to see all our seniors out there together playing as a unit. I do have faith in this senior class in a lot of ways, and I know that they really wanted to pull together and have those connections up on the field today, and it was nice to be able to give them a good opportunity to do that.”
The Quakers were in control early in the game, drawing many great opportunities that were deflected. The team opened the scoring with a goal in the first seven minutes of the game.
Junior Elita van Staden shot the ball from the top of the circle into a crowd in front of the net. The ball was redirected by senior Maddy Fagan to the left side of the cage, and junior Meghan Ward tipped it up past the Dartmouth goalie. Penn led the 1-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Quakers continued to dominate offensively with one of their best chances coming at the end of the first half. Junior Sydney Huang fired a breakaway pass for Maddy Fagan, but it was too far ahead and ended up being kicked away by the Dartmouth goalie.
The first half ended with a 1-0 lead for the Quakers, but it wouldn’t last long as the Big Green evened up the game with one of their own shortly into the third quarter. The tie ended even more quickly — a little over a minute later, the Quakers scored after drawing a game-deciding corner.
Senior Lily Clarkson sent out a pass to her fellow senior Ashley Wetzel who was positioned at the top of the circle. After Wetzel carefully set up the ball, senior Gracyn Banks nailed a hard, untouched shot into the upper-left corner.
“I think it was really special that the game-winning goal was a trifecta of seniors. I think that's the way it was supposed to be. I'm really proud of them, and I'm really happy for Lily, Ashley, and Gracyn that they were able to all connect for that game-winner,” Fink said.
The score would stay that way for the rest of the game. Many underclassmen got playing time, including sophomore goaltender Hayley Hayden, who made one save in the final quarter. It was a good indication of what is to come for Penn field hockey.
“I am proud of our underclassmen. They really stepped up this season, especially coming off [COVID-19] and not even understanding the college game,” Wetzel said. “They've really done well and just fit right into the program, so we're proud of them. They definitely played for us today, and I'm excited to come back and watch them play.”
Fink credited her now seniors for making a successful season possible this year through their actions and leadership since when they were juniors during a canceled season.
“I honestly do think that the [then-juniors and now-seniors] were really the glue that kept everything together because I know that they definitely had their eyes on our goals that entire time," Fink said. “They needed to find that balance between letting the [then-seniors] lead, but also giving them the space they needed and trying to keep the team together and unified and in the right direction. I give them a tremendous amount of credit for quietly leading almost from the sideline as juniors and then really stepping up and being ready.”
Overall, while this was the first season back in what was almost projected to be a rebuilding year, it was exciting for the seniors to finish their careers on a high note.
“I think we had a strong schedule this year, but I think we did really well against our opponents, and we finished strong," Clarkson said. “I'm so glad we got the win on Senior Day. Just a great way to finish our careers.”