Penn Playbook: Penn wins nailbiters vs. Princeton  

It had been more than a decade since Penn’s field hockey team had laid claim to the Ivy League championship when the team traveled north to Princeton early this month to take on the Tigers—a team that has owned Penn in recent years.

Though the Quakers entered the game with a better record (12-4, vs. Princeton’s 7-9), the psychological edge probably went to the Tigers. Besides, they hadn’t lost to the Quakers since 1993, and have dominated the Ivy League in recent years, winning a share of the title for 10 straight years.

Since the early 1990s, Princeton has been the team to beat in Ivy League field hockey, and Penn simply hasn’t been up to the challenge. With time running out on the Nov. 5 Tigers-Quakers matchup, it seemed Princeton might again have Penn’s number. The score was tied 1-1, the clock was nearing zero, and Penn was in need of a playmaker. They got one.

Cara Calahan, a junior, jumped on a loose ball near the Princeton net and shoved it past the Princeton goalkeeper for the score, just as the clock ran out.

“In my 25 years at Penn this is the most spectacular game I have witnessed,” said Penn coach Val Cloud afterward. “I couldn’t think of a better way to end the game.”

The win gave Penn their first piece of the Ivy League title since 1993. They will share the title with Harvard. That the title-clinching win came against Princeton—the team that so dominated Ivy League field hockey of late—must have made the victory even sweeter.

Football team keeps streak alive

Cloud’s team wasn’t the only one to register a dramatic win over a Princeton squad this month.

The Penn football team, which has made a habit of winning close games this season, did it once again on Nov. 6 with a last-second win over the Tigers.

And in a season full of close calls, this one was the closest.

The Quakers, winners of a record 20 straight Ivy League games, trailed the Tigers 15-13 with under 9 minutes remaining. Unfazed, the Quakers calmly took the ball and marched down the field for the winning score—but not without a big scare. After scraping together a 12-play, 59-yard drive that put them deep in Princeton territory, Penn lined up for a 22-yard field goal that would give them the lead. Kicking that attempt would be freshman Derek Zoch, who had attempted exactly zero field goal attempts this season. Zoch trotted out, lined up and … missed it.

Or, at least, so it seemed. Fortunately for Penn, the play had been whistled dead before the snap because of an illegal motion penalty. Zoch was given another shot, this time from 27 yards, and he nailed it. Penn went on to win 16-15.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Derek,” Bagnoli told The Daily Pennsylvanian afterward.

As of this printing, the only thing standing between the Quakers and another Ivy League football crown was Harvard. The Crimson were a perfect 8-0 after dismantling Columbia, 38-0, on Nov. 6.

The winner of the Penn-Harvard game, set for Nov. 13 at Franklin Field, would claim at least a share of the Ivy title.


Originally published on November 18, 2004