With the clock about to strike midnight on 2013, it’s time to rekindle the best memories of the last 12 months. So for the fourth straight year, we present our top ten Penn games of the year. With so many memorable comebacks, upsets, dramatic finishes and championship clinchers, it was tough to whittle the list down to just ten. But we managed. For reference, here were the lists from 2012, 2011 and 2010. Enjoy!
What makes this game (err, match) different than every other one on the list? Well, in this one, the Quakers defeated the No. 1 team in the country, avenging a loss a month earlier to top-ranked Penn State with an exciting 16-11 triumph. What’s more, Penn’s jousters picked up a 15-12 win over No. 5 St. John’s the same day, giving the Quakers two wins over top five teams in the same tournament. Not bad for a day’s work.
Not sleet nor snow nor rain or even a lightning delay could slow down the Quakers in this one. Neither could their fiercest rival. In a game played in wild weather conditions, Penn opened its Ivy League season by beating No. 7 Princeton at Franklin Field for the second time in the last three years (this after never beating the Tigers from 1990 to 2010). Isaac Bock led the way with a hat trick for Penn, which finished the year at 8-5 and made the Ivy League postseason tournament.
In the most recent game to crack the list, the Quakers rode the biggest comeback in Penn women’s basketball history to shock neighborhood rival Drexel. The win was the fifth straight for the Quakers, who trailed by 19 points at one point in the first half. And it was perhaps their best one yet as it came against the defending WNIT champs. It was certainly the most dramatic one as 6-foot-3 freshman Sydney Stipanovich, who finished with 14 points and a whopping 19 rebounds, tied the game with a minute-and-a-half left, before Alyssa Baron (more on her later) scored the game-winner on a great drive with 2.6 seconds left.
The men’s basketball team had a rough season in 2012-13 and is off to another rough start in 2013-14. But for the second straight year, the Quakers managed to upset Harvard, which went on to not only win the Ivy League title but also win a game in the NCAA tournament. Perhaps the best part about this win was that it showed the promise of sophomores Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry (then freshmen), who combined for 42 points, 15 rebounds and six steals in the win.
Penn’s new home turf at Ellen Vagelos Field paid big dividends this season with the Quakers going 7-2 at home in 2013, including five one-goal wins. But none were as dramatic as this one as Penn overcame a two-goal deficit to win in overtime. Freshman Elise Tilton scored two straight goals in the final ten minutes of regulation to tie the game and Emily Corcoran netted the game-winner in OT to send Penn to its first 3-0 Ivy League start in nearly 20 years. The Quakers would end up finishing second in the Ivy League as they continue their quest to close the gap with national juggernaut Princeton.
In terms of significance, the men’s soccer team’s Ivy League-title clinching win at Harvard on Nov. 16 was the biggest of them all. But the Quakers would never have been in the position to win the program’s third outright Ivy crown since 1972 had they not overcame multiple deficits before stunning Yale in overtime at Rhodes Field. Senior Stephen Baker was the star in this one, logging assists on Penn’s first two goals, including the game-tying diving header from Jonny Dolezal with three minutes left, and scoring the sudden-death winner after Alec Neumann blocked a clearance attempt from Yale’s goalie. Then came the celebration.
As if winning a historic seventh straight Ivy League title wasn’t enough, the powerhouse Penn women’s lacrosse team did so by beating hated Princeton … at home … in overtime. In a back-and-forth affair, Shannon Mangini completed her hat trick with the overtime winner as the team set a new record for consecutive Ivy titles by a women’s program at Penn. The win also allowed the Quakers to host the Ivy League tournament at home – which they won with a 10-7 victory over Dartmouth to book a spot in their seventh straight NCAA tournament.
Remember earlier in this list when Alyssa Baron hit a game-winning shot to send the Quakers to an improbable come-from-behind victory? Nine months before that, she did the same thing – only this one landed her on SportsCenter and sent the Quakers into the final four of a postseason tournament (the WBI). Watch the video below to see just how well Baron was able to calmly create her own shot and turn what should have been a two-point loss into a thrilling one-point victory for the Quakers. Game-winning plays don’t get too much better than that.
On the same day the women’s lacrosse team beat Dartmouth for the Ivy League tournament championship, the softball team won its own title just an hour later and right next door. Alexis Borden pitched a gem and Kayla Dahlerbruch belted a go-ahead home run in the fourth inning to lift the Quakers past the Big Green in the Ivy title game at Penn Park, sending Penn to the program’s first league title since 1981 and an automatic berth in its first-ever NCAA tournament. The Quakers ended up making a quick exit at the NCAAs but this win – and the softball season as a whole – was still one of the top highlights of the year in Penn sports. But the No. 1 highlight of the year goes to …
In the 138-year history of Penn football, there’s never been a game quite like this. What looked to certainly be a loss as Dartmouth lined up for a chip-shot field goal at the end of regulation turned into the longest game in program history after David Park amazingly blocked the kick. And after an exhausting and mentally draining four overtimes, Penn running back Kyle Wilcox – who, at the time, was a deep reserve – ended it with a 20-yard touchdown run, getting mobbed by teammates when all he really wanted was some water. Ravaged by injuries and bad luck, Penn ended up losing its final four games to finish below .500 for just the second time in head coach Al Bagnoli’s 22-year tenure. But the players on the 2013 Penn football team will always remember this win.
– Dave Zeitlin