Conference play is an opportunity for any team to get on a roll and improve their resume for the NCAA tournament.
For Ivy League competitors, the league is much improved and provides a challenge every week.
Historically, the league has been dominated by Princeton and Cornell. These two powerhouses have claimed the league's automatic bid to the tournament in almost every season, but this is bound to change.
Last year, Harvard, Yale, Brown and Penn all vied to the conference crown, giving teams headaches as they prepared to face off.
Saturday, Princeton will host a Penn team that demolished the Tigers in Philadelphia just a year ago. Dominating faceoffs and leaving the Princeton offense looking for answers, the loss was just the beginning of a torturous Ivy League showing for the Tigers.
Princeton finished at 4-8, while Penn finished at 8-5 in 2011. While the Tigers were cleaning out their locker room, the Quakers lost to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the NCAA tournament.
Princeton is coming off of an impressive 14-8 victory over No. 10 Villanova on Tuesday night, giving them momentum moving forward. Sophomore Tom Schreiber and junior Jeff Froccaro had five goals apiece, continuing to show versatility and skill on the offensive end of the field.
The Tigers defense was tenacious, with senior goaltender Tyler Fiorito having his first quality performance of the season. Close defenders Chad Wiedmaier and Rob Castelo shined with help from short sticks Jack Strabo and Nick Fernandez.
Princeton has lost two close games to ranked foes Johns Hopkins and UNC in consecutive weeks. The Villanova game erased those memories and got the team firing on all cylinders as they prepare to host the Quakers.
For Penn, a 1-3 record so far has left the team looking for answers. Their one win came against the least likely opponent, as they beat a talented North Carolina team by four at home. They have lost to Duke, Lehigh and Villanova, who are all ranked in the polls this week.
Their schedule has been tough, but does not get any easier as they enter league play. Attackman John Conneely leads the team with seven goals and four assists, with midfielder Dan Savage adding six goals from the midfield position.
Sophomore defender Maxx Meyer leads a Quaker defense that had the Tigers' number in 2011. His ability to keep up with attackers and midfielders makes him one of the most versatile players in the Ivy League. He will have a tough test against Schreiber and company on Saturday.
In an interesting goalie matchup, Princeton All-American Tyler Fiorito is looking to stay on track as he fights through inconsistency. After a disappointing showing against both Hopkins and UNC, the talented netminder finally shined against 'Nova this week. This performance improved his save percentage to 47 percent, something that should continue to rise as he gets on a roll.
For Penn, goalie Brian Feeney his also boasting a 47 percent save percentage, giving teams the opportunity to put points up on the Quakers. He will look to Saturday as an opportunity for a fresh start as the teams begin 0-0 in conference play.
With a new turf field and nice weather expected in Princeton this weekend, the goalies should have good conditions to improve their play and help their team win.
Listen to my call of the game on 103.3 WPRB FM in New Jersey, or stream the game live on WPRB.com. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU. Faceoff is set for 1 p.m.
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