PHILADELPHIA - The Penn field hockey team entered the 2006 season after losing five key team members, including All-America midfielder Lea Salese. But with head coach Val Cloud bringing in her strongest freshman class in years, hopes were high for the Quakers to improve on last year’s 9-8 record. After a turbulent start to the season, Penn found its groove, winning six straight games in October, and ended up with a repeat of the year before: a final record of 9-8, and tied for second place in the Ivy League.
The Quakers started their season at the Blue Hen Classic at the University of Delaware. In their first game in two days, Penn faced off against Syracuse and lost 1-0. The game was tied until the last ten minutes, when a Syracuse forward took advantage of an unlucky deflection to score the lone goal of the game. The next day, Penn faced off against No. 15 Ohio State and lost 4-0. Senior Elizabeth Schlossberg had a career high, as she stopped 18 of the Buckeyes’ 22 shots. Three days later, the Quakers faced off against City 6 opponent Saint Joseph’s in hopes of rebounding with a big win. It wasn’t to be, as the Hawks overpowered Penn and took home a 2-0 win.
After a 0-3 start, the Quakers were determined to find a win. And they did in their first Ivy League match-up of the season against Harvard, as they won, 2-0. Penn’s first goal came just five minutes in, off a penalty corner. Junior Jamie Calahan took the corner, sending a perfect pass to junior Meghan Rose. Rose set the perfect ball for sophomore Margaretha Ehret, who drove it into the left corner past the Crimson keeper. Late in the game, junior Nicole Black had a crucial breakaway, and came close to scoring; she was stopped when the Harvard goalie came out of the net and tripped her, giving the Quakers a penalty stroke. Rose took the shot for Penn and put it away easily, giving the Red and Blue a 2-0 win. It was a much-needed win, as the Quakers were looking at a five-game road trip over the coming weeks.
Though the next team they faced was not an Ivy opponent, Penn managed to keep the wins coming with a 3-1 victory over Lafayette. The Quakers went down 1-0 early in the game, but just minutes later, Calahan, Rose and Ehret combined again for another goal off a penalty corner. Seconds before the end of the half, sophomore Nina Ferrier made it 2-1 with an unassisted goal. Senior forward Tracy Statter sealed the 3-1 win for Penn with a goal in the second half.
In their second Ivy match-up of the year against Cornell, the Quakers did not have as much success as the first time, losing 2-1. Down 2-0 in the first half, Penn managed to battle back, as Melissa Black scored on a penalty corner to make it 2-1. But tough defense on both sides kept more shots from getting in, and the Quakers came home with the loss.
They didn’t get much of a break, as their next opponent was nationally ranked Penn State. The Nittany Lions came into the game against the Quakers ranked eighth in the nation and played that way, handing Penn a 3-0 loss. But the Quakers would improve to 3-5, as they pulled out a 2-1 overtime win over Rutgers just four days later. Nicole Black scored first for Penn in that game, on a breakaway. Rutgers tied it up just ten minutes later, and the second half was scoreless, sending the two teams to OT. Rose ended the game quickly, as she scored the game-winning goal just twenty seconds into overtime.
Penn had to face off against another City 6 opponent just three days later, and it didn’t get any easier, as the Quakers took on No. 16 Villanova. The Quakers put up a fight against the nationally ranked Wildcats, but it wasn’t enough as they lost, 3-2. Senior Nyssa Liebermann scored Penn’s first goal just seconds before the end of the half, tying the score at 1-1. After the Wildcats scored again in the second half, Penn answered, as Nicole Black scored to tie it up at 2-2. But Villanova’s powerful offense was too much for the Red and Blue, as they lost, 3-2.
Penn’s struggles to score continued, as the Quakers were upset by Dartmouth in their third Ivy League game of the season. The Big Green was winless in the Ivies going into the game, but managed to beat the Quakers, 2-1. Penn’s lone goal came when Statter scored with just ten minutes left in the game. The Quakers returned home with a 3-7 record, and a tough Ivy schedule ahead.
October came, and the Penn field hockey team seized the new month and made it a new season. After losing four of their last five games, the Quakers earned a much-needed win, as they beat Lock Haven, 2-1. The Bald Eagles came to Franklin Field riding an eight-game winning streak, but Penn made sure that ended on Franklin Field. Junior Kara Bolger got things started for Penn, scoring towards the end of the first half. Minutes into the second half, the Bald Eagles tied it up at 1-1. But just ten minutes later, Rose answered with the game-winning goal, and Penn improved to 4-7 overall.
Riding high on the win, the Quakers hosted Ivy League opponent Columbia and pulled through with a big 3-2 win. Midway through the first half, Nicole Black got the Quakers on the board with another breakaway. Eleven minutes later, Black would score again, giving Penn the 2-0 lead at halftime. Thirteen minutes into the second half, Statter scored to give the Quakers a solid 3-0 lead. But momentum shifted, and the Lions gave Penn a scare, scoring a goal on a scramble in front of the net. Just 30 seconds later, Columbia made good on a penalty stroke, and brought the lead down to 3-2. But Penn’s defense would hold on, led by an outstanding effort from junior Nicole Levi, and the Quakers came through with a big Ivy win.
The wins wouldn’t stop there. Penn improved to 6-7 overall with a 3-0 win over Drexel just two days later. Statter scored two in the win, while Nicole Black added one for safety. Schlossberg had seven saves, and earned her first shutout of the season. Penn earned another big win over a non-Ivy opponent, as they beat UMBC on their home turf, 3-0. Rose, Bolger, and Nicole Black all scored in the team’s fourth straight win, while sophomore goalie Alana Butera got credit for the shutout.
Coming off two big wins, Penn headed right into three tough Ivy League match-ups to end the season.
First, the Quakers traveled to New Haven, Conn., where they pulled out an exciting 3-2 win over Yale. Jamie Calahan scored first for Penn, followed by Black and Statter, who scored the game-winner. The game was a physical one, as four cards were given out, two for each team; but the Quakers managed to stay on top, as they outshot the Bulldogs, 23-13, and improved to 3-2 in the Ivy League.
In a game that had league implications, the Quakers hosted Brown on Senior Day. Going into the game, both teams had 3-2 Ivy League records, and second place was at stake. Penn pulled through, earning the 1-0 win. Senior Kristin Connelly scored the lone goal for Penn in her first collegiate start.
For their last game of the season, Penn took on the Ivy champions, Princeton, who had dominated the league all year. And though the Tigers were 6-0 going into the game, the Quakers gave them a run for their money before losing 2-1 in overtime. The game was a defensive battle, as no one scored in the first half or most of the second. Princeton didn’t get on the board until late in the second half, when they scored off a penalty corner. But the Quakers didn’t give up, and with just seconds left in the game Nicole Black found the back of the net to send the game into overtime. Again, the team’s defenses were the stars, as both teams were scoreless for almost 13 minutes. But near the end of OT, a Princeton forward found the back of the net and maintained her team’s perfect Ivy record, with a 2-1 win.
Ending on a High Note
Though the Quakers ended the season with a tough loss to the league champions, they managed an unbeaten October, and finished tied for second in the Ivy League. Coach Cloud was happy with the way her squad ended the year.
“September was a disappointing month, but we came back in the second half of the season and proved to ourselves and everyone else what a strong team we were,” Cloud said. “It was great to see the girls develop, and watch the level of play rise because they played well together. And we’ll definitely continue that come next year. We’re looking forward to next spring and next fall.”
Junior Rose led the way in postseason honors, as she was selected for the 2006 National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division I All-Region Second Team, and was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection.
Other postseason honors included Nicole Black and Nicole Levi, who were named second-team All-Ivy, as well as Elizabeth Schlossberg and freshman midfielder Kathryn Rose who earned honorable mention All-Ivy nods.