PHILADELPHIA - Forget for a moment the score from today’s de facto Ivy League championship field hockey game between Penn and Princeton (especially since it was a 5-1 victory for the Tigers).
Saturday was a special day for the University of Pennsylvania field hockey program.
You had the pregame ceremony, starting at a tent set just off the new Ellen Vagelos C’90 Field. Following that, there was the on-field dedication of the new facility that included and recognized literally dozens of former players and coaches who have been a part of the Quaker program dating back to the 1970s.
Considering the date, you could not have asked for better weather -- sunny, with an October-ish autumn chill in the air. The crowd? Oh, the crowd. More than 600 people filled the stands and stood along the fence on the East sideline. They even had to move people away from behind one of the goals.
And when Penn sophomore Elizabeth Hitti scored, tying the game at 1-1? The roar was something to remember for these young women.
Ultimately, Princeton (13-4, 7-0 Ivy League) showed why it is the defending national champions, ranked ninth nationally, and winners of the last nine Ivy League titles. The Tigers were fast and athletic, and they used that to their advantage with a high-pressure defense all over the field. Bottom line: they’ve played in games where the stakes were high. For Penn? Whole new experience. You learn from this and improve from it.
Penn’s season ends at 13-4, one win shy of the program record, and the Quakers end 5-2 in Ivy League play which is good for second place in the league. The game was also the last for seniors Amelia Cohen, Katie Harrington, Sunny Stirewalt and Julie Tahan. To say they’ve come a long way would be an understatement. You think they envisioned a day like Saturday after their freshman (3-14, 1-6 Ivy) or sophomore (4-13, 2-5 Ivy) seasons?
Princeton’s first goal came just 2:08 into the contest. Off the Tigers’ first short corner of the game, their initial shot was saved by Carly Sokach but Cat Caro was there to pounce on the rebound.
As mentioned before, Penn tied it on its own first corner of the day, Hitti driving home a rebound after Julie Tahan’s shot was blocked.
Princeton gained control of this contest with a pair of goals less than two minutes apart at the midway point of the opening period. The first came from Michelle Cesan and was a thing of beauty – she took a pass near midfield, ran into open space until she got into the circle, then fired a backhanded shot that beat Sokach past her right. Shortly after that, the Tigers converted another corner, Amanda Bird rifling a shot from the top of the circle inside the left post.
In the second half, Allison Evans took advantage of a man-up situation to pot one from in front with less than 13 minutes left. Cesan ended the scoring with just 1:37 left.
Despite the score, Sokach had another solid day for the Quakers; she made 14 saves, her seventh time reaching double digits in that category this season. At the other end, Princeton keeper Anya Gersoff was called on to make four stops.