When asked how important defense is to the women’s lacrosse team, head coach Jenny Graap ’86 put it simply.
“Defense is critical,” she said. “We’re all relying heavily on [the defenders].”
A pair of seniors will lead the Cornell defense this year — 2004 All-Ivy selection Annie Berkery, and co-captain Julia Hughey.
Berkery led Cornell in forced turnovers (15) last year, and she was second in ground balls (32).
Hughey also had a strong junior year. She won 29 ground balls, and she was second on the team in caused turnovers (12).
Berkery opened this season with an excellent performance against Notre Dame. She limited her mark — All-American candidate Crysti Foote — to just one assist and no goals. Hughey has already caused four turnovers in two games, while also recording six ground balls.
Cornell has a number of new recruits in the backfield, including freshman Jessica Dwinell. The Pennsylvania native has started in both of the Red’s first two games.
“She’s playing exceptionally well, [and] she has several interceptions,” Graap said.
This year, the Red will also hope to stop opponents with its quickness.
Cornell has great speed on the field with sophomore Anne Riordan. The former high school track star can play in the midfield and on the backline, and she may be one of the fastest players in the conference.
“Her speed is phenomenal,” Graap said.
Riordan can also be threat on offense and in the transition game. She had a goal and three shots against Hofstra.
Junior goalie Maggie Fava will be the last line of defense for Cornell. Her improved play should be of great importance in close Ivy League games.
But, the team is counting on improved play from all its players.
After a 2004 season that saw the Red give up 10 or more goals in seven games, Graap is focused on once again making Cornell a top defensive team.
“I think in the past Cornell has developed, and been successful, with a very stingy defense,” Graap said. “We made our way to the  Final Four, and established ourselves. In 2004 we definitely got away from that … giving up double-digit goals to a lot of opponents.”
Back in 2002, the Red gave up 10 or more goals in just two games.
Those games were losses against Princeton and Georgetown, and they were Cornell’s only defeats of the year.
“I put a lot of emphasis on defense, [and] not just by the true defenders,” Graap said. “Defense is everywhere in the game of lacrosse.”
The Red will need to play well on both sides of the field during spring break, when Cornell hits to road to meet Stanford, No. 15 Ohio State, and No. 19 Penn.
“I think some focuses are defensive communication and transition, notably transition from our defense to our offense,” Graap said. “I think cleaning up the transition game will be crucial as we go forward.”
Archived article by Ted Nyman
Sun Staff Writer