With only four games left in the season, the field hockey team takes to the road this weekend to keep its chances at a double-digit win tally — and possibly an Ivy title — alive.

After suffering their first defeat in nearly a month last weekend, the Bulldogs (7-6, 2-2 Ivy) will look to regain their momentum as they face league rival Penn (6-7, 2-2) tonight on Franklin Field in Philadelphia. On Sunday they will head northwest to play their final non-conference game against Lock Haven University (11-5).

Last weekend marked the 35th anniversary of the field hockey program at Yale, and the Elis began their two-game home stretch with a resounding 2-1 double-overtime victory over archrival Harvard (7-6, 3-1). But No. 18 Syracuse (12-4) proved to be too tough an opponent for the Bulldogs, whose six-game winning streak was finally snapped after last Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Orange.

Although the defeat was a disappointing way to end the weekend, the Elis are more than ready to take the field again, midfielder Laura Pierce ’09 said.

“The team is excited to start on a new winning streak,” she said. “Throughout the season we’ve continued to learn and make changes to our play when necessary, and that was our focus again this week at practice. If we play our game and continue to support each other on the field, I have every confidence we’ll be successful this weekend.”

Tonight’s match against Penn is a chance for the Bulldogs to pick up their third conference win of the season. But the game takes on an even greater significance given that the Quakers and the Elis are currently two of three teams tied for fourth in the Ivy League standings, behind current leader and defending champion Princeton (9-4, 4-1), Harvard and third-place Cornell (6-6, 3-2). Columbia (7-5, 2-2) is the third team tied for fourth place.

“The Penn game is a really crucial game for us, as are the rest of the games from here on out,” midfielder Katie Cantore ’10 said. “We’re in a make-it-or-break-it situation because all the teams in the league are so close right now in standings, so each game is incredibly important.”

Penn is on a two-game losing streak and is coming off a tough 1-0 overtime loss to Columbia. Still, the Quakers have a home-field advantage — in the most literal sense of the word. Franklin Field features a thicker turf than do the majority of other arenas, which could be a stumbling block for teams not used to the surface.

But Yale head coach Pam Stuper said the Elis have spent the past week preparing for the change in conditions and will not allow it to impact their level of play.

“I’m really not concerned,” she said. “I definitely think it’ll be a different game for us — it’ll be a little slower, and it’ll change how we approach our corners. But ultimately, I think we’re ready for it.”

Lock Haven will present its own set of challenges. The Lady Eagles are currently first in the Northeast Conference with a 6-0 league record, and for the past six weeks they have fielded the NEC Player of the Week. The team is also currently fifth in the country in goals per game, at 3.44, and a scoring margin of +1.85 puts Lock Haven in eighth place nationally.

The Bulldogs are equal to the challenge, however — they have won the Ivy Player of the Week award the last three weeks. Most recently, forward Cat Lindroth ’08 took the honor for her part in last weekend’s victory over the Crimson. And in spite of the pressure as the season begins to wind down, the Elis will continue to take games one at a time and get the job done, Stuper said.

“Basically, I know I’ve said this before, but it’s just another game,” she said. “The next one on the list is Penn. Taking the lessons we’ve learned from our wins and losses, and after another good week of practice, we’re going down there to see what we can do.”