Resilience: The ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
The Penn field hockey team has faced a ton of misfortune in the past three weeks as it is off to an 0-6 start to begin its 2022 campaign.
Not only has it had the second-toughest strength of schedule in Division I so far, but these games have also been heartbreak after heartbreak since the second weekend of the season: a penalty shootout loss against Boston College, a defensive miscue with under three minutes left against Villanova that allowed the Wildcats to tie the game up and win in OT, three goals in six minutes from Northwestern to flip the score from 2-1 Quakers to 4-2 the other way, and a fourth-quarter goal on a corner by Drexel to lose a sixth straight game. The Quakers led the game at some point in the second half in three of these four games.
So yes … it’s been a tough start for the Red and Blue, but this is not a bad team. This is a team that gave the undefeated reigning national champions their first two deficits of the season. This is a talented and experienced team, with six seniors in the current starting lineup, four of whom earned All-Ivy honors last year.
What is it that this team needs going forward? The intangibles: the mental toughness to bounce back when they get scored on or make a mistake, the confidence to rip more shots from anywhere inside the shooting circle and earn more scoring opportunities off deflections and corners, and some of that “moxie,” or cockiness if you will — a little arrogance never hurts. This is all about mentality. This is resilience.
When I interviewed captains Elita Van Staden, Meghan Ward, and Gracyn Banks after the first weekend of the season, they made one thing very clear: Their goal for this year was an Ivy League title. They were fully confident that they could do it then, but the concern is if this team still believes they can do it now. Coach Colleen Fink recently took to Twitter to let the world know that she still believes in her team.
“I want to thank those around me for the support as the start of this season has been challenging,” she wrote. “BUT I want to make sure everyone knows that we have an AMAZING TEAM … I stand with them in my belief. They are talented, mature and focused women.”
It’s a great feeling to know your coach has complete faith in you, but it is also up to the rest of the leadership in this team to transmit that confidence going forward.
The good news is that Penn is currently 0-0 in Ivy League play and is starting with a clean slate. The bad news is that things aren’t getting easier anytime soon. Penn kicks off Ivy play this Friday against the toughest opponent in the league, No. 8 Princeton, and will have to follow that up with a home game against No. 10 Harvard the following Friday.
Winning the Ancient Eight — which Penn hasn't done since 2004 — means that the Quakers have to beat at least one of these two opponents — and even then there have only been two 6-1 champions since 2010, with the rest of them going a perfect 7-0.
When Penn travels to Princeton on Friday, they will have to come and play as well as they did against Northwestern. They have to come out taking more difficult shots like Van Staden’s turnaround goal in that game, but must minimize turnovers on the defensive half that led to fastbreaks like the one that allowed Northwestern to erase Penn’s lead.
The Quakers are facing the best player in the Ivy League, Beth Yeager: last year’s Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, who is averaging 2.14 points per game this season, and is fresh off two goals on Tuesday to lift the Tigers over the previously undefeated Maryland Terrapins. If they can slow her down the way they did to Northwestern’s Bente Baekers, forcing other players to make the plays, they’ll be in a good position.
It’s a tough task ahead for the Red and Blue, and they’re going to need resilience because it’s now or never for them. With six seniors in their current lineup, led by Gracyn Banks — arguably the best player in program history — the clock is ticking for this Penn team. How will they respond? We’ll find out soon enough.
Juan Tejera is a sports reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian and is a College sophomore from Miami studying economics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.