PHILADELPHIA - The 2011 field hockey season saw the program start to lay the foundation for a return to the top of the Ivy League under second-year head coach Colleen Fink and her assistant Katelyn O'Brien. The Quakers eclipsed their win totals from the previous season; both overall and in the Ivy League.
After starting off the season with three straight games on the road, Penn returned home in mid-September and after dropping the home opener to Lafayette, picked up its first win of the season in Ivy League play with a 1-0 win over Cornell as freshman Emily Corcoran's first collegiate goal was a game-winner and Kieran Sweeney recorded her first shutout of the season. This victory put Penn in first place in the Ivy League after the first week of play. Following a one goal defeat to Villanova, the Quakers got back into Ivy League play, but could not make it two wins in the Ivy League as Harvard prevailed on its home turf.
Coming back to Franklin Field, the Quakers would pick up their second win of the season against La Salle, this time in overtime, on freshman Helene Caniglia's game-winning goal that came on a penalty corner. In the game, Sweeney, with the help of a pair of defensive saves, made 12 stops of her own to post her second shutout of the season. The next two home games did not go the way of the Quakers as Penn jumped out to a lead against Dartmouth before falling 4-2 in the Ivy matchup, followed by a 3-1 early morning loss to UC Davis.
Getting back out on the road, Penn took on Lehigh, a team it had lost to by three in the preseason. The Quakers closed the gap, but fell by another one goal margin, 4-3. In New York that weekend, Columbia would get its revenge from a Penn win last season, coming away with a 5-1 win.
Once again, the home field advantage of Franklin Field would help turn the tides as the Quakers scored a team-high five goals in the 5-2 win over UC Davis. In that contest, freshman Alex Iqbal would tally a hat trick, while Kirstin Snyder and Caniglia also scored for the victors. Julie Tahan added two assists for the game. This marked the first time since 2009 that Penn had scored five goals in a game. Taking on Yale at Franklin Field the next time out, Penn would open up another early lead with the first goal, but the Bulldogs came away with the 2-1 victory with a strong second half.
After a loss on the road to nationally-ranked Rider, the Quakers would finally get their road win against Brown, avenging last season's defeat to the Bears with a 3-2 road victory. In that game, Iqbal had two goals, including the game-winner, while Snyder tied the game at two with her goal right before the half. Penn would close out the season on senior night against Princeton. Starting all five seniors, Penn battled the NCAA tournament bound Tigers and held them scoreless for over 52 minutes before Princeton came away with the late victory.
Despite the up-and-down season, there is much reason for optimism surrounding the field hockey program moving forward. In addition to eclipsing the win totals, just a one goal difference separated Penn from a victory in four other games. The Quakers also held the lead at some point during four of their Ivy League games.
Offensively, Penn scored five more goals this season when compared to 2010, including a streak of 14 straight games. Before being snapped in the season finale, this streak was the 11th longest active streak in the country. This season also saw many more chances as Penn averaged four more shots and 2.5 more shots on goal in 2011 than it did a season ago.
The Quakers' defense allowed 20 fewer goals in 2011. Opponents also took 46 fewer shots and 20 fewer shots on goal this season. The Penn defense was anchored by Sweeney, who played in all 17 games and started the final 16. Senior Caroline Olt, junior Mandy Epstein, and freshman MaryRose Croddick provided a strong line of defense as each of these three started and played in every game this season.
At the end of the season, Penn had two freshmen, Iqbal and Croddick, named All-Ivy performers. This marked the first time in the program's history that Penn had more than one freshman named to the All-Ivy team. These two were part of incoming class that saw six freshmen start at least one game in 2011.
For the 2012 season, Penn will return five of its six goal scorers. The 17 returning players saw a combined 125 starts between them and played in a total of 189 games. Five of the returning players started in all 17 games, while 11 players played in at least 12 games this past season.
Below is a photo gallery highlighting some of the team's achievements from the 2011 season.