NEWARK Four games in 11 days, including three straight on the road did not deter the Quakers on Wednesday as they rallied from a first-half deficit to defeat the Delaware Blue Hens 3-2. The win extends Penn’s winning streak to three games and gives the Red and Blue victories in six of their last seven games.
The Hens entered the game with a reputation as a team that gave liked to be the aggressor, peppering opponents with shots and wearing them down. The Quakers would have none of that, however, turning the tables on the Blue Hens and controlling play in the opening moments of the game. Penn outshot Delaware 10-3 in the half, not allowing the Hens to get into their natural rhythm.
Unfortunately for the Quakers, Delaware turned one minute of offensive pressure into the only goal of the first half. Delaware earned a penalty corner at the 15:57 mark of the half. A Casey Howard shot was turned away by Alanna Butera, but the rebound lay right in the circle. Kathryn Burke made the only play she had, clearing the ball to the side and out of bounds, which led to a second corner for Delaware. On the second chance, Amy Brewer inserted the ball to Jackie Tait who perfectly set Howard. This time, Howard’s shot sailed past Butera for a 1-0 lead.
The second half started with more offensive pressure from the Quakers. Kara Bolger and Rachel Eng each had chances to score the equalizer but were not able to finish the scoring chance. Those errors proved costly as Delaware extended its lead to 2-0 at the 64:53 mark when Michelle Drummonds gathered a loose ball in front of Butera and found the back of the cage.
At this moment, the game could have went two ways for Penn. Either the Quakers were going to squander a game where they controlled the majority of play or they would rally themselves and not be denied the victory they deserved. It was apparent quickly that they chose the latter.
It took the Quakers less than three minutes to gather themselves and get on the board. Meghan Rose showed senior leadership as she carried the ball up the left side of the field and entered the circle. Four Blue Hen defenders took a step back and gave Rose all the room she could want. Instead of carrying the ball further into traffic, Rose wound up and fired a shot that beat Nikki Rhoades five-hole and cut Delaware’s lead to one.
The next few minutes featured solid defense from Penn as they worked hard to keep within striking distance. Alexis Esbitt had two shots in a row on goal. The first was steered away by Butera and the second required an outstanding defensive save by Burke to stay out of the cage.
Penn turned on the pressure with fifteen minutes left in the game. The Quakers earned four corners in a two minute span. It was the fourth that changed the course of the game.
The shot by Rose was covered illegally by Rhoades in the circle, resulting in a penalty kick for the Quakers. Rose lined up seven yards from the goalie and picked her spot. Much like last week against Villanova, the result was academic. Rose’s shot to the bottom left corner left Rhoades with no chance and evened the score, 2-2 with 12 minutes remaining in the game.
Butera was called upon to come up big again with 7:33 left in the game. Howard looked to be the hero, rushing in all alone on goal. Butera made a gutsy decision to come out and attack her. The move paid off as Butera smothered the ball before Howard had a chance to shoot.
Closing in on five minutes remaining, Eng rushed up the right side, eluding defenders. She drew the remaining Delaware players to her and at the last moment slid a pass right on the stick of Jamie Calahan who took one dribble and slid the ball under a diving Rhoades, giving Penn a much deserved 3-2 lead.
The Quakers were in a similar position a week ago against Nova. They held a lead late in the game against a favored opponent, but were not able to hang on, losing 5-4 in overtime after surrendering a goal late in the game. This time, Penn kept its composure and focused on team defense. A shot by Howard was forced wide by a rushing defender with three minutes left. Kimmy Schlezes tried to find an open Blue Hen in front with two minutes left and everyone was covered, resulting in the ball going out of bounds. The final nail in the coffin for Delaware was when Margaretha Ehret intercepted a pass with 29 seconds left and killed the remaining time on the clock.
After the game, it was clear this was no ordinary win for the Quakers.
“I haven’t been this excited in along time,” said head coach Val Cloud, “This is an awesome win for Penn field hockey.”
She was unable to single out just one player when asked who contributed to the win.
“We didn’t have a weak link tonight,” she said, “This was an exceptional game and I couldn’t be prouder of our team.”
If Cloud did single out one player, odds are it would have been Rose. The captain led by example, fighting for loose balls and taking advantage of opportunities when she had them. Her two goals on the night give her five on the year. She has unquestionably proven herself as the player Cloud counts on when a penalty shot arises. Rose has scored on both of her penalty shots this season and is perfect on all three she has taken as a Quaker.
Meghan nailed it,” said Cloud, “Not a goalie in the world could have stopped that shot.”
Rose claimed that the goal was just like old times for her.
“I wasn’t nervous,” she said, “I have been taking that shot for years.”
She senses something different about her team since its two-week layoff in September.
“Our play has gone to a whole new level. This win will turn a lot of heads,” said Rose, “I remember how exciting 2004 was and the seniors wanted tonight’s game just as bad.”
The 2004 team Rose mentioned is the last two take home an Ivy League crown. With four Ancient Eight games remaining on the schedule and the Quakers sitting at 2-1 in the conference, the Red and Blue may be getting white-hot at just the right time.