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Sophomore forward Dylan Breier during this season's matchup against Yale on Sept. 22. Credit: Ethan Young

With it's nearly 70 years of history, it's not very often that Ivy League field hockey does something for the first time ever anymore. But on Friday, Penn field hockey (7-9, 5-2 Ivy) will head to Cambridge, Mass. for the first ever Ivy League Field Hockey Tournament.

“'Finally. Thank God.' That was my initial reaction,” said coach Colleen Fink about her thoughts on the new tournament. “This has been a long time coming. The Ivy League field hockey coaches have been putting proposals in for at least a decade.”

The tournament consists of the top four teams in regular season Ivy League standings competing in two semifinal games, with the winner of each advancing to the finals. Penn, the fourth seed, will take on the top seeded Harvard (13-3, 7-0). The other game will feature second-ranked Cornell (12-4, 5-2) facing off against number three ranked Princeton (7-8, 5-2).

Harvard, who stands at No. 10 nationally, has already defeated the Quakers earlier this season, besting them 2-0 on Oct. 21. Changing that zero on the scoreboard is a key focus for this weekend. According to Fink, the team has taken a close look at their attack and transition plays. While the Quakers had a similar amount of time in the offensive zone against Harvard, this time around they will need to turn those opportunities into quality scoring chances. 

The Quakers will likely look to senior forward/midfielder Allison Kuzyk to take charge on the offense. Kuzyk has led the team in scoring, notching 13 goals in 16 games including four in her last two. But Harvard has been a difficult team to score against all season — conceding three goals in seven games of Ivy play — largely thanks to the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, sophomore Bronte-May Brough. 

However, playing tough competition is nothing new for the Quakers, who persisted through a gauntlet of a schedule, having faced four of the current top 10 teams in the country.

“I think playing good teams in general is obviously just great to prepare yourself for hard games,” Kuzyk said. “These are going to be hard games, playing against good teams. It's good to get better, obviously.”

Penn has had a lot of time to prepare for the tournament, securing their spot all the way back on Oct. 13. However, that doesn’t mean that the Quakers coasted through the rest of the season. According to Fink, they treated the final weekend of the season, a double header, as a playoff series in preparation for the tournament. In their final home game of the season on Saturday, Penn earned a close 2-1 victory over Brown (6-10, 1-6) to end its Ivy season. Sunday, the team hit the road for its last game, but fell by a score of 4-3 to Delaware (8-9).

On the other side, Harvard has been on a hot streak to finish off its season. The team has not lost a game since September and are coming off of a 2-1 victory over the Big Red. The Crimson are led by coach Tjerk Van Herwaarden, who was unanimously named Ivy League Coach of the Year. Offensively, the team is led by junior Emily Guckian and freshman Sage Piekarski, who have both notched eight goals this season. Piekarski was recently named Co-Ivy League Rookie of the Year. 

This weekend’s tournament will have even more on the line then just a conference championship. The winner will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Division 1 Field Hockey Tournament. With the Quakers currently ranked at No. 32 in the nation, there's little hope they'll receive an at-large bid to the 18-team tournament. More likely than not, winning the Ivy League Tournament will be their only shot at competing for the national title this year. 

“Any opportunity to extend your season is great," Kuzyk said. "Especially as a senior, I want to play as long as I can and I want [us] to finish in the best position that we can, and I think that we're capable of doing really well and going really far.” 

The semifinal game between the Red and Blue and tournament-host Harvard will start at 3 p.m. on Friday. Should the Quakers advance to the finals, the championship game will take place on Sunday, Nov. 5 at 1 p.m.