With two games remaining in the regular season, the Cornell women’s soccer team is finally playing the type of quality soccer that it expected of itself. After winning two of its past three matches, the Red (4-6-3, 1-3-1 Ivy) is brimming with confidence. However, it faces a stern test this Sunday, when it travels to New Hampshire to square off against Ivy foe, Dartmouth.
The Green (7-4-1, 3-1-1), currently the third place team in the Ivies, is the 25th ranked team in the country and the third best squad in the northeast. Although it needs help to win the Ivy League, it is has a chance for the title. Hence, every remaining game is important to its cause, including this weekend’s match with Cornell.
After stumbling out of the starting gates, Dartmouth has come on strong lately. It has won four of its last five matches, including an impressive 1-0 victory over then 11th ranked Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. last Saturday.
Dartmouth, much like Cornell, is an opportunistic team that relies heavily on its defense. The back line is the strength of the squad as it has allowed just 11 goals in 12 contests. Senior backer Shannon Agner and junior defenseman Meaghan Kelly anchor the unit that, for the most part, does a good job of protecting the team’s young goalie tandem.
Sophomore goalie Julia Shields has started the majority of the team’s games but generally gives way to rookie keeper Anne Marbarger. The two-headed monster has been quite successful for the Green, as it has held opponents to an average of under a goal per contest.
While Dartmouth cannot be considered an offensive juggernaut, it certainly has the ability to put the ball in the net. A trio of juniors leads the Green attack. Midfielder Mary McVeigh, and forwards Annie Gibson and Laura Ashley all rank in the top ten in Ivy scoring. McVeigh is the primary playmaker, as she has collected a team-high six assists, which also ranks third best in the league. Gibson and Ashley are gifted finishers, having collected four and five goals respectively.
Unlike many other teams that Cornell has faced this season, Dartmouth also plays a fine, constructive game.
“Dartmouth is one of the better teams,” Cornell head coach Berhane Andeberhan admitted. “They play a nice constructive game and have a good midfield.”
Like Dartmouth, Cornell comes into the match playing well. Its 1-0 win over Bucknell this past Tuesday gave the team its fourth win of the year, surpassing last year’s win total. The lady booters have won two of their last three games, and they are 2-1-1 in their last four matches. Even the one defeat, a 1-0 loss at Princeton, was an impressive showing by the Red squad.
The key for the Red has been the stinginess of its defense. Sterling in the first few games of the year, the unit slumped in the middle of the schedule as it was racked by injuries. Now, with the squad more or less at full strength, the group has once again tightened the screws on opposing offenses. The lady booters have allowed just three goals in their last four outings and no more than a single goal in any game.
Andeberhan attributed some of the success to his players’ better understanding of a team defensive strategy and pointed to the Princeton game as an example.
“We can really apply high and low pressure defending,” he said. “Our team played flawless low pressure defense against Princeton.”
Of course, when one is mentioning the exploits of the defense, freshman keeper Katie Thomas must be mentioned. After her five-save shutout performance against Bucknell, she is now among the league leaders with three shutouts on the season. More importantly, the two-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week has given the team stability in net, as she as played in every minute of every Cornell game.
Unfortunately for the Red, it will have to play with best player, Sarah Olsen at less than full strength. The junior co-captain is still feeling sick, and her start will be a game-time decision.
“I hope she can play some this weekend,” Andeberhan said. “She’s at home resting. If she plays, she won’t be at her usual efficiency.”
On the road this weekend, Cornell must continue its solid defensive play if it hopes to pull the upset. After its strong showing at Ivy leader Princeton last weekend, the Red proved that it could play with any team in the league. If it plays as well as it did this week, it will ably play the role of spoiler.
Archived article by Alex Ip