PHILADELPHIA - The Penn field hockey team has struggled of late, and entered its contest with Columbia on Sunday having lost 10 games in a row and scuffling along at 1-11 overall. That said, the Quakers were feeling better about things after a 2-1 loss at Delaware Friday, a game that seemed a signal that things were improving.
If Friday offered a reason for optimism, Sunday was the breakthrough. Penn surrendered a halftime lead, but give the Quakers credit -- after falling behind to the Lions with exactly 10 minutes left, they picked themselves up, got the tying goal on a spectacular play, then finished a dramatic afternoon with another goal early in overtime to stun Columbia, 3-2, at Franklin Field.
It ended a day that could be described with one word -- perfect. Penn wore pink socks and pink accessories to go with their white jerseys as part of Play 4 The Cure, a breast cancer awareness initiative that reminded everyone of what's really important in life. The weather was vintage autumn, with sunny skies but a slight chill in the air. The crowd? Tremendous. Penn had the Classes of 1993 and 1994 in the stands with their families -- members of Penn's 1992 and 1993 Ivy League championship squads -- and you couldn't help but get goose bumps when the current team ran over to the stands after the game and sang the alma mater with the alums.
The winning goal? Ah, the goal.
With the field opened up because of the 7-on-7 of overtime play, Penn was on the defensive at the start but was able to score on a counterattack. The Quakers sent a long ball down the field that Annie Matthews -- moved from her midfield spot during regulation to the top of the lineup -- was able to collect. She rolled in toward the Columbia goal from the right side, and as soon as she got inside the circle she fired a shot that was blocked by a Columbia defender's stick. The ball bounced back to Matthews, who settled it and sent a pass to a wide-open Laurel McGarvie directly in front of the goal at the top of the circle. She took the pass and fired a shot that Lion goalkeeper Christie O'Hara had no chance on.
McGarvie's goal set off a wild scene, as the Penn bench raced onto the field to join the raucous on-field celebration. Back at the bench, first-year head coach Colleen Fink and her staff traded excited hugs as well; for Fink, the win marked her first in Ivy play and second overall.
Penn (2-11, 1-3) was outshot on the day, 17-7, and gave up a whopping 17 short corners to Columbia. However, the Quakers bent but didn't break, and Danielle Rothman was her usual stellar self in coming up with four saves.
The Quakers opened the scoring in the 19th minute when Julie Tahan was able to a corral a ball played in from the left side and knocked a back-handed shot that beat O'Hara to her left. Despite outshoot Penn in the half, 8-2, Columbia could not equalize.
In fact, it wasn't until the 52nd minute that the Lions (8-5, 1-3) drew level. Anna Tichy knotted things up when she received the ball in the middle of the circle facing away from the goal, but turned and fired a shot that beat Rothman to her right side.
Just eight minutes later, Columbia grabbed the lead. Leti Freaney made a nice individual effort, dribbling the ball a short distance into the circle and, just as she entered at the top, hitting a screaming shot that Rothman couldn't get to.
Penn pressed the play after that, though, and the Quakers were rewarded less than four minutes after Freaney's goal. Off a short corner, Mahan took a shot that O'Hara saved in the prone position. The ball bounced to Kirstin Snyder who played it to Caroline Olt, who calmly collected it left of the goal and lifted a shot over O'Hara and into the net. It was the junior's first collegiate goal.
Penn will be back in action at Franklin Field Wednesday night, hosting Saint Joseph's at 7:15 p.m.