PHILADELPHIA - If there was ever a case of the final score not showing how a game truly played out, Friday night's season finale certainly fit that bill. Looking to upset Princeton on Franklin Field, the Quakers held the Tigers scoreless for over 52 minutes of play, while also creating some very good scoring chances of their own. However, after the first goal in the 53rd minute, Princeton took advantage of Penn trying to push people up and create even more offensive chances and would come away with the 3-0 win and clinch the Ivy League's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
With Penn celebrating Senior Night before the game, it was that senior class that would set the tone early for Penn. All five seniors - Abigail Egan, Erin Healy, Caroline Olt, Kirstin Snyder, and Kieran Sweeney - each got the start in their final game and would make immediate impacts. Making her first start of the season, Healy played the entire seventy minutes on the back line and constantly shut down any Princeton opportunities. Olt, who was making her 51st consecutive start, also played the entire 70 minutes in the back, helping to keep the Princeton offense at bay.
In goal, Sweeney made 10 saves on the night, including several spectacular stops. Snyder was not able to get any shots off in her final game, but was a constant force in midfield taking back key possessions for Penn over the course of her seventy minutes of play. Egan was constantly involved in the offensive end and had the early opportunity to put Penn up a goal with great offensive stick work, but the Princeton goalie made a sensational save to stop the Quakers' scoring chance.
Princeton worked its way into the Penn offensive zone in the early minutes of the game and earned five penalty corners in the first 10-plus minutes. However, the Quakers, like they would do so many times over the course of the game, tightened up defensively and would not allow a shot on the first two attempts. On the third and fourth short corners, Sweeney came up with huge stops and Penn would work out of its defensive zone, not allowing a shot on the fifth corner.
The Quakers would not have the quantity of chances early on in the game, but they made up for it with the quality of the looks they would create for themselves. Quickly transitioning to the Princeton circle, Egan worked her way right in front of the net, but the aforementioned great save would keep the game scoreless. Off the rebound, Alex Iqbal took a shot at goal, but her attempt went wide.
After three minutes of play back in the midfield, Penn created its first penalty corner chance of the night. The Quakers would not get the shot away on their first corner of the night, but would earn a second chance in the process. Julie Tahan would get her first shot of the night, but it went just wide of goal on the second corner attempt.
In the 21st minute, Princeton would try and gets its offense going, but the Tigers first two shots went wide and Sweeney was again in position to make the save on the third. Princeton would earn three more penalty corners shortly after, but Sweeney made the save on the first and the Quakers' defense would clear the zone after not allowing a shot on the second and third.
Sarah Hasson would get her first shot at goal in the 27th minute, but her take was also saved. In the 30th minute, Penn continued the offensive pressure with Iqbal taking her second shot of the night; however, her shot would also be saved. The Tigers took four shots in the final five minutes of the first half, but Sweeney would not let in any cheap goals to end the half as she came up with three more stops to preserve scoreless game, while the other shot sailed over the net.
Princeton continued to have a presence in the Penn defense in the second half with three more penalty corners. On the first corner, Penn looked to be in trouble, but Helene Caniglia was in the right position at the right time to come up with her team-leading third defensive save of the season. The next two corners were business as usual for the Quakers defense as Penn again held the Tigers' offense without a shot on the second try and Sweeney was back in position to make another save on the third corner.
Penn then took over the possession and worked the ball into the offensive zone and Emily Corcoran would get her first shot of the night on goal, but this attempt would also be saved. After a slew subs for Princeton, Penn called a timeout to try and work out a game plan for the final 20 minutes of play.
Coming out of the break, Princeton earned another penalty corner in the 53rd minute and after some confusion of two balls coming onto the field at the same time, Princeton's quick insert off the penalty corner seemed to catch a Penn defense, that was rock-solid all night long, on its heels and converted the chance, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead with just 17 minutes to play.
Shortly after the first goal, Penn knew that time was not on its side and began to force the play in the offensive zone. The Tigers would catch the Penn attack trying to put numbers up top to create offensive chances and earn three more penalty corners. Sweeney made the first save and the shot on the second corner went wide. However, right off the insert on the third corner, Princeton's shooter would take the quick hit and find the back of the net for the 2-0 lead with just over four minutes to play.
In the waning minutes, with Penn in its full-fledged offensive attack, the Tigers again found a gap in the pushed up attack and would get two final shots off in the final seconds. Sweeney would make the stop on the original shot, but the rebound would take an unlucky bounce for the Quakers and go right back to the shooter. With Sweeney out of the cage after making the original save, Princeton finished the rebound and came away with the 3-0 win. Despite the score's appearance, Penn battled the Ivy League champs to the bitter end, trying desperately to send the senior class out on a winning note.
For the game, 10 of the players that started played the entire seventy minutes, including four seniors, while the Quakers constantly rotated fresh legs up top to try and beat the Princeton defense. For the game, Iqbal finished with two shots and one on goal, while Egan, Hasson, and Corcoran each had a shot on goal. Tahan also finished with a shot.
Regardless of the final outcome, the 2011 season will definitely be remembered as one where Penn began to lay the foundation for the future. Mixing a large freshman class with the five seniors, Penn made huge strides this season. The Quakers eclipsed their overall win total and Ivy League win totals from last season. All of this success came with six freshman, three sophomores, and three juniors seeing time at some point in the starting lineup, gaining valuable experience to help continue to push the Quakers upwards in the Ivy League standings after a sixth place finish this season.
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