PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It all comes down to Saturday for the University of Pennsylvania field hockey team as they will host rival Princeton.
The Quakers have enjoyed an outstanding season to this point. They are 13-2 overall and 5-1 in the Ivy League. A win on Saturday would give the Quakers a share of the Ancient 8 title and the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Penn last qualified for the tourney back in 1993.
“It’s really exciting,” Penn head coach Colleen Fink tells KYW Newsradio. “The team has been focused from the jump and I think they are looking forward and counting down the minutes until the opening pass back on Saturday.”
Listen: Colleen Fink with KYW’s Matt Leon
Penn has scored more goals and allowed fewer than anyone else in the Ivy League. They have one of the nation’s top players in sophomore Alexa Hoover, who leads the Ancient 8, and is second in the country, with 27 goals.
The Quakers also have been in this position before. Back in 2013, Penn hosted Princeton in the final game of the regular season with the exact same possibilities on the table as Saturday. Penn lost that day, 5-1, but Fink says they learned a lot.
“That experience definitely provided tremendous growth for this program,” Fink says. “This whole thing has just been a process from the start and you have to learn to win. That’s what this program has been doing over the course of the last four years and it’s about rising to the occasion in those big games and having our leaders perform and be able to take the group in the direction and keep them composed and stay in the moment. I think that that’s really been our focus the entire season so far.”
As usual, Princeton is outstanding. The Tigers have been a dominant force in the Ivy League since Bill Clinton was president. The Tigers have already clinched at least a share of the league title for the 21st time in the past 22 years. This season Princeton is 9-6 overall and 6-0 in the league. Fink talks about what her team has to do to have success on Saturday.
“The biggest key is having our players step up into the roles that they’ve been in for the majority of the season,” Fink says. “Clearly, we have to execute offensively and then we need our defense to eliminate opportunities for Princeton and eliminate entry balls and just really play our style of hockey. Play a high tempo, really manipulating the possession and just really dictating the pace of the game from the start.”
Penn and Princeton will get started at noon on Saturday.