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Junior forward Lis Zandbergen fights for possession against a Boston College player during the game at Ellen Vagelos Field on Sept. 9. Credit: Samantha Turner

This Saturday at noon, Penn field hockey will take on Brown in its annual Pink Game. The team is working to raise awareness for metastatic breast cancer in support of Penn field hockey graduate Gretta Ehret, though other Quakers on the team are bringing their own personal connections to the contest as well.

Much of Penn field hockey's substantive efforts for the cause have been driven by Ehret, who graduated in 2009 after acting as team captain and receiving All-Ivy honors. Since graduating, Ehret has been a devoted member of the Philadelphia field hockey community. She played at Penn Charter high school, has been a volunteer assistant coach to Penn, and now coaches local high school teams. 

Through battling metastatic breast cancer while still remaining devoted to her sport, Ehret follows a mentality she has coined herself: being ‘dream crazy’ to accomplish anything. 

“It’s really just very much about anything is possible,” Penn field hockey coach Colleen Fink said about Ehret's mantra. “She wants to combat that to the best of her ability… [that's] what we're trying to accomplish.”

The team is preparing for this game the same as any other matchup, with some particular emphasis on offensive execution and prioritizing team strengths. 

Much more lies behind the emotions of the team going into this weekend. Junior forward Lis Zandbergen will play to represent her grandmother from back home in the Netherlands. Her grandmother was fortunate enough to receive an early diagnosis of breast cancer through mandatory health procedures instituted in the Netherlands and recovered. Zandbergen then lost her grandmother when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer later on and subsequently passed away. 

“She was always so incredibly supportive of and excited for me to go to the U.S. and play the sport that I love,” Zandbergen said. “This makes playing this Pink Game for me this Saturday extra special and meaningful for me, because I know how happy and proud she would have been.”

Pink games, which are hosted nationwide in many athletic programs during the month of October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month — are dedicated to raising awareness around the disease. 

Penn field hockey has taken on several endeavors to extend its efforts beyond just one game, such as partnering with Penn Medicine. In past years, a Penn Medicine representative has spoken with all the Penn female athletes about breast health and education, covering topics like self-exams, mammogram practices, and early detection. 

Fink finds these measures especially important because, “for whatever reason, we don't talk much about [breast health].”

Additionally, the team aims to diversify its breast cancer awareness initiatives by alternating between education-focused years and advocacy-focused years. Advocacy involves writing, emailing, and calling state legislators to advocate for better ways to serve communities through research, increased funding, and developing new, better treatment plans.

This year is aimed towards advocacy, and will be spearheaded by Thursday, October 13th’s metastatic breast cancer night for all female Penn athletes. 

Advocacy and spreading awareness and support to all women and girls has unified the team under another shared objective besides aiming for results on the field. Fink emphasized that one-in-eight women receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their life, and feels strongly that everyone will have some personal connection to this game. 

“I think it's just a really great way to tie in the legacy of 'dream crazy' [with] the mentality that women's health is critically important in our community and beyond,” she said. “And then also just celebrate Gretta and the idea of her specifically dreaming crazy.”

In Ehret’s name, and connections personal to individuals, Penn field hockey is setting out for a Pink Game with substance and meaning beyond just the pink gear.