Two struggling Ivy League teams will square off in Hanover, N.H., tomorrow as Cornell will take on Dartmouth. Both teams have struggled in conference play of late, with the Green securing just one win in its last six games and the Red dropping seven straight. For both cellar-dwellers, the game represents a promising chance to end the 2007 campaign with a rare league win.
The Red (4-10, 0-5 Ivy) has fallen considerably short of its preseason goal of contending for the Ivy League crown. After several torpid defeats, however, the team showed signs of life at second-place Princeton last weekend, losing 1-0. Despite giving up an early goal to the Tigers, the Red had chances to tie the game late in the second half.
Last week, several Red players were encouraged after the solid effort against Princeton, saying that it could very well translate into wins against Dartmouth (3-9-2, 1-3-1) and Columbia (6-5-4, 1-3-1). Dartmouth, a tough, physical team, represents its best chance to win a conference game — even though the Green has won 10-of- 11 against the Red.
“Coach LaRoche has been saying we need to play with [that kind] of heart in the last two weeks,” said freshman forward Lena Russomagno, the Red’s leading goal-scorer.
Dartmouth plays a style similar to slow-it-down teams like Princeton and Lafayette. While the Red dropped it’s contest with the Tigers, the team downed the Leopards, 3-2, in overtime. Unlike some of the more explosive teams in the Northeast, these teams are not as dangerous in the open field, where the Red defense has been exposed so many times this year.
“Dartmouth’s defense is its strongest aspect,” said Russomagno. “Their midfielders and forwards are weaker. Defensively, we haven’t been focusing on one player like we did last week.”
That one player would be All-Ivy senior Diana Matheson, who still managed to slip by the Red’s defenders to put Princeton on the board early. Sophomore forward Maggie Goldstein represents the Green’s biggest threat with four goals on the year. This week, the Red can afford to be more aggressive, playing with two forwards and letting their defenders kickstart the offensive attack. It is the same gameplan that LaRoche used earlier in the season against less talented teams.
The Red is preparing for a tough, physical duel on Saturday, with LaRoche focusing on physical play and drills in practice this week.
“The defense [has been] really physical in practice,” said Russomagno. “The practices are intense … it was physical against Princeton, and we played really well.”
The best moment of Cornell’s season came in a testy home battle with Lafayette, where several players suffered game-ending injuries and multiple bookings were awarded as the second half grew tighter. The Red managed to wear down Lafayette as the afternoon proceeded, scoring two second-half goals to steal the victory.
Late in the season, however, the Red may be ill-equipped to deal with physicality. Freshman forward Natalie Zandt and sophomore midfielder Brenna Mcguire have already undergone season-ending surgeries while several other players, including Russomagno, have been slowed by injury.