With an offense that has scored more goals in seven games than it did all of last season, it is no surprise that the field hockey team (5-2, 3-0 Ivy) remains undefeated in league play. However, the defense, which has allowed only 10 goals, deserves much of the credit as well.
After coming off a weekend where the Red split two games, recording a win over Ivy-rival Yale and a loss to Vermont, the importance of a strong defense has been greatly reinforced. With Cornell being outshot 17-8, putting pressure on the opponent and stopping scoring drives is key to keeping the ball out of the goal.
“I thought early on [this season] we did a good job being in sync as a team and moving as a unit,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook. “Last weekend, we found people in isolated, one-on-one situations, and we should have done a better job engaging [the opponent] in tackles.”
From the beginning of the season, the young defensive unit has learned to focus on the transition of the ball from the backfield to the front line, relying on the rest of the team for help.
“We talk about our defense as a team defense, including the forwards,” Hornibrook said. “The forwards have a huge role [because] they are the first line of pressure, and if they do an excellent job, it helps out the rest of the team.”
Although the defense is lacking upperclassmen, the returning players have re-energized a defensive gameplan that began to develop late last season. By creating overall team strategies, while continuing to prepare for each game one at a time, the defense has already shown great growth since last year.
“For every game, we prepare differently based on the game strategies that [are made] according to our opponent,” said freshman back Belen Martinez. “We push up a lot and work on moving the ball up for the offense.”
Martinez, who finds herself as an offensive weapon despite playing in the back, helps to lead a defense that has allowed only 1.41 goals per game in 2005. Along with classmates Stephanie Brownstein, Katlyn Donoghue and Helena Haas, Martinez forms the core of the Red’s defensive squad. Sophomore Katie Bradshaw finds herself as one of the more experienced players among the young group.
Also, standing out as an excellent defensive player for the Red is sophomore goalkeeper Lizzie Goldblatt, who has allowed only eight goals while making 37 saves this season.
“Lizzie has done a good job and stepped up a lot [this year],” said senior co-captain Natalie Serle. “She has filled a role that is very high stress, where she needs to be a leader automatically.”
Although the team’s defense has impressed many opponents and consistently improves, the team will constantly work to develop their skills.
“[The defense] has been spectacular in some games. I think they’re all on the same wavelength,” Hornibrook said. “We have done much better [lately]. Now we’re cleaner on tackles and have a lot less penalty corners.”
The defense will be tested again this weekend on the road with contests at Princeton tomorrow and West Chester on Sunday.
Archived article by Kristina Kovach
Sun Staff Writer