It was closer than wanted, but the Cornell women’s lacrosse team (1-0) held off a late rally and earned a 7-6 victory over the Villanova Wildcats (0-2) at Schoellkopf Field to open up its 2016 campaign Saturday afternoon.
Head coach Jenny Graap ’86 said she was happy with the win, but knows the team has room to improve.
“It certainly felt good to secure the victory in our first game of the 2016 season, but there’s no doubt [we] will take some valuable lessons from our first game,” Graap noted.
The Wildcats, who finished 9-8 last season and made the Big East tournament for the first time in program history, came out strong on both sides of the ball and took a 1-0 lead just two and a half minutes into the game.
It took the Red some time, but as the half went on, they began to figure out Villanova’s aggressive zone defense. Freshman Tomasina Leska scored her first career goal to tie the game off on an impressive wrap around move, beating Wildcat goaltender Jaclyn Fraum. Just a few minutes later, senior Olivia Mattyasovszky picked up a ball and scored to give Cornell their first lead. The Red would score two more goals going into halftime to take a 4-1 lead following their most productive stretch.
“It felt amazing to finally be out on Schoellkopf playing someone other than ourselves,” Mattyasovszky said. “The win wasn’t pretty and we have a lot to work on, but it was good to finally get tested against an opponent.”
Early in the second half, Villanova’s Jackie Frocarro beat two Cornell defensemen for her first of three goals on the day to cut the lead to two. The Red answered with two goals in under two minutes, including a quick one from just outside the crease by junior Amie Dickson, followed by a left handed shot by classmate Kristy Gilbert. At this point, Cornell had built its largest lead of the game of four.
Villanova got one back, but Mattyasovszky answered by whipping a laser into the net, notching her second goal. The senior gave credit to her teammates for her successful day.
“I think anyone’s success on the field is due to the team around us,” she said. We’re incredibly close and it’s easy to have success when we’re all playing for each other.”
After regaining the four-goal lead, the Wildcats scored two quick goals. The Red lost a step and looked sloppy to close out the game, forcing Graap to call a timeout with six minutes remaining.
“Lacrosse is a game of momentum, and we were lucky to have a four goal lead late in the second half,” Graap said. “Conceding three goals to Villanova in the final ten minutes was certainly not the ending we would have liked.”
Cornell tightened things up after the timeout and was able to hold off the comeback despite a late Villanova goal with just 13 seconds left in the game. Junior goalie Renee Poullott saved six shots in the victory and Cornell controlled an impressive eleven out of fifteen draws. The win marks the fifth year in a row the Red won its season opener and drops Villanova to 0-2.
The Cornell players were thrilled to finally have some real competition, but they know there is still much to improve upon. Next up, Cornell hits the road to face No. 20 Albany this Saturday at 3 p.m. Graap knows that her team will need to work hard in practice to keep up with a very strong squad.
“We have a lot to work on before facing Albany on the road next weekend,” Graap said. “We need to clean up our skills while continuing to improve the synergy on the field. Players need to start gelling in all areas of the field — offense, midfield and defense so we can more effectively play as a team.”
Still, the players are confident and have lofty goals for the season.
“The whole team, especially our senior class, wants to win the Ivy League championship,” Mattyasovszky said. “We have a long way to go, but it’s going to be a really exciting season.”