After winning the first four games of its current homestand to improve to 9-4 (4-1 Ivy), the field hockey team has set itself up for one of its most important contests in recent memory this Sunday against Brown (5-7, 2-2 Ivy) at Schoellkopf Field.
With a win, the Red will sweep a five-game homestand for the first time in its history, set a new team record for wins with 10, and most importantly, put itself in position to win the Ivy League title for the first time since 1991.
However, the women are chasing a Princeton program that has been the model of success in the conference for the past decade, capturing at least a share of the title every year from 1994-2003 Entering the stretch run of its schedule, the Red trails Princeton by one game, with both programs scheduled to play two remaining Ivy League opponents. The head-to-head advantage remains with Princeton, however, after a thrilling 2-1 victory over Cornell on September 30th.
As a result, the Red will only be able to receive the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament if it claims sole possession of the top spot – a situation which necessitates two Cornell wins and along with a pair of Princeton defeats.
Nevertheless, this feat may not be as far fetched as one might imagine. Princeton’s two remaining foes are defending Ivy League co-champions Harvard and Penn, both of which will make it hard on the Tigers to keep its undefeated league record in tact.
This weekend, Cornell will take on a feisty Brown team, which has proven that it has the talent to hang with the best teams in the league, beating Harvard 1-0 in late September and hanging with nationally-ranked Northwestern in a 3-2 heartbreaker.
Although the Red certainly does not need any more motivation to play hard, most players on the team remember the devastating 2-1 loss to the Bears a year ago – one in which they will certainly look to avenge on Sunday.
This might be an opportune time to do just that, as Brown will come into this weekend’s action having lost three in a row, including a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Princeton a week ago.
In order to break out of their funk, the Bears will need to rely on the superb play of junior attacker Samantha Lloyd, who not only leads her team, but the entire Ivy League in goals (8), goals per game (0.73) and points per game (1.55).
Furthermore, Lloyd has proven to be immune to pressure with three game winning goals in only 11 games played. Cornell will counter with a budding star of its own in freshman Alyssa DePaola, who is nipping at the heels of Lloyd in virtually every offensive category.
In 12 games, DePaola is tied for second in the Ivy League in goals (7), goals per game (0.58), points (18) and points per game (1.50), trailing only Lloyd in each category except for points.
However, head coach Donna Hornibrook shies away from emphasizing individual accomplishments and maintains that the key to success is through a compete team effort.
“We are a team in every sense of the word. Throughout the year we have relied on constant substitutions to keep fresh legs on the field and to preserve our speed advantage,” Hornibrook said.
This is a strategy that she will continue to apply against Brown, especially given their rather unorthodox formation. The Bears will drop back a striker to play midfield throughout the game and utilize many lateral passes, a strategy which has often caused matchup problems in past games. Cornell will need to counter this move by developing a gameplan to mark the Bears’ forwards, while maintaining constant pressure on the Brown backfield.
“Although every Ivy League game is key, this one certainly has something extra attached to it. With another solid team performance, we will hopefully get a shot at the Ivy League title next weekend,” Hornibrook said.
Archived article by Lance Williams
Sun Staff Writer