It’s almost New Year’s Eve, so you know what that means: a year-end review of the best games of 2012. For the third straight year, we’ll be counting down the most dramatic, meaningful and memorable contests of the past 12 months across all team sports at Penn. As always, this list is subjective, excludes the great performances in the more individual-oriented sports, and slants toward games in which Penn wins. Enjoy!
There’s nothing like the pressure of sudden-death overtimes – especially when you’re playing your final home game of the season and need a win to remain in contention for the share of a conference title. In the fifth minute of overtime, Megan York responded to that pressure in a big way, scoring her only goal of the season and touching off a huge celebration in the middle of Rhodes Field. The following week, however, the Quakers lost its chance at piece of the Ivy League crown when it fell to Princeton. Watch York’s game-winner below.
There have been closer matches over the past year, but for the Penn wrestling team, this one was the best. In a recent early-season matchup, the Quakers went into the opposing gym of a nationally ranked team, won their first four weights and held on for their first road win over Lehigh since 2007. The convincing victory also marked Penn’s first triumph over a nationally ranked team since 2009. Watch some highlights below.
On its own, the drama of winning its final home game of the season in sudden-death fashion (on a goal from junior captain Julie Tahan) would probably have been enough to make this list. But this game had even more meaning as the Quakers paid tribute to former field hockey player Kate Gray, who was undergoing her final chemotherapy treatment for a form of bone cancer, by wearing gold socks, armbands and headbands. The game may have also been the field hockey program’s final one at Franklin Field as plans for a new field are underway. After scoring the game-winning goal, Tahan would say, “Ninety years of field hockey we’ve been playing here – we needed to win our last game if it’s the last time we’re playing here ever.” Hear more from an ecstatic Tahan in this postgame interview below.
Courtney Tomchik had already scored three goals as the final seconds of overtime ticked off the clock in this women’s lacrosse shootout at Franklin Field. But that wasn’t enough. With 24 seconds remaining, Tomchik netted the first game-winning goal of her career to send the Quakers to the dramatic victory. Erin Brennan added three goals, including the 100th of her career for Penn, which rallied from a five-goal deficit. Less than two months later, the Quakers would beat Harvard again in the Ivy League tournament semifinals – before losing in the Ivy finals and then in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
What’s better than beating Princeton? How about beating Princeton by staging a ridiculously huge comeback. That’s what happened in this road matchup as the Quakers dropped the first two sets and allowed the Tigers to come within two points of winning the third set – before rattling off seven points to stay alive and then capture the fourth and fifth sets to leave New Jersey with the hard-fought victory. Kristen Etterbeek had a match-high 19 kills and 10 digs for Penn, which finished with a 13-12 overall record and an 8-6 mark in the Ivies.
It was only fitting that the Penn football team capped a season filled with dramatic victories with a, well, dramatic victory. Fresh off beating Brown, Princeton and Harvard (more on that one below) in memorable fashion, the Quakers needed to top Cornell in their regular-season finale to win the outright Ivy League title, as opposed to sharing the crown. They accomplished that when senior quarterback Andrew Holland, who was filling in for the injured Billy Ragone, engineered a game-winning drive (capped by a touchdown run from Spencer Kulcsar) to put Penn up 35-28 with a minute to play. The Quakers then held on for dear life as Cornell got the ball within eight yards of the end zone before time ran out, giving Penn its 13th outright Ivy League title – a conference record. Watch the highlights of the thrilling game below.
Early-season non-conference college basketball games don’t always carry with them much appeal. But when the Quakers went to New York earlier this month, they made history. Trailing by 18 points with seven-and-a-half-minutes remaining, the Penn women staged the program’s biggest comeback of all-time, finishing on a 22-3 run and scoring the game’s final 15 points to win by one. Leading scorer Alyssa Baron drove in for the game-winning bucket with 6.4 seconds left. Watch the play below.
OK, so in terms of comebacks, game-winning plays and back-and-forth drama, this one doesn’t stack up to the others on the list. But the Quakers’ 4-0 shutout of Cornell in the one-game playoff for the Ivy League’s South Division championship was memorable for another reason. It was memorable because of pitcher Alexis Borden, who accomplished one of the sport’s most impressive feats: a perfect game. It was the first time an Ivy League softball pitcher didn’t allow anyone to reach base for a full game since 2006, and it gave the Quakers their second divisional title since the Ivy League went to the North-South format in 2007. Watch the final pitch of the perfecto below.
To understand why this was such a good win for Penn, you need to understand that Harvard looked to be unbeatable coming into this Ivy League showdown at Franklin Field. The Crimson were ranked first in the league in most important statistical categories, owned the best rushing defense in the nation, and were absolutely obliterating their opponents to that point. On top of that, Ragone suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle, leaving the Quakers without their starting quarterback for the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, Penn played a near-perfect game to defeat the nationally ranked Crimson and capture at least a share of its 16th Ivy League championship (which they would win outright the following week at Cornell). Head coach Al Bagnoli would later call it one of the best wins in his 21-year tenure. Watch the highlights below.
If you were lucky enough to be Boston on this cold February night, you probably still get chills thinking about it. Harvard needed a win to capture at least a share of its second straight Ivy League title – and for most of the night, it looked as if they were going to get it. But Penn star Zack Rosen simply would not allow it, scoring a game-high 20 points – including a slew of off-balance shots as well as two game-winning free throws with 23 seconds – to lead the Quakers to a thrilling come-from-behind win over the heavily favored Crimson. The victory – which was secured when fifth-year senior Tyler Bernardini drew a charge to negate a go-ahead basket by Harvard’s Kyle Casey – kept Penn in contention for its first Ivy title since 2007 until its very last game of the season, when it lost to Princeton. But that disappointing regular-season finale shouldn’t take away from Penn’s incredible upset in Boston a week-and-a-half earlier.