Homecoming weekend will be busy for the Cornell field hockey team as the Red prepares for games against No. 21 Penn (4-1) and UVM (5-3) on Saturday and Sunday.
Although Homecoming is always an exciting time for the Cornell community, head coach Donna Hornibrook is not worried about the potential distractions of the weekend on the Red’s performance.
“We are not looking beyond the upcoming games so we can focus on what we have to do,” she said.
The women are not letting the home field advantage get to their heads.
“Our advantage will be determined from how we approach the game,” Hornibrook said.
The Red (4-2) fell short 3-2 in overtime last season against the Quakers, and Hornibrook knows they will put up a good fight.
“I respect Penn as a program,” Hornibrook said. “They are a quality team who play an intense game.”
Hornibrook also knows that doing well against the Quakers will require intense physical and mental preparation.
“We have had some good games, but we need to come out of the gate strong,” she said.
The women have excelled in their defensive play and dealing with the ball in their 25 this season, according to Hornibrook. She knows that by focusing on these areas the team will be able to put its best foot forward from the get go.
Senior co-captain Sam McILwrick and junior goalkeeper Kelly Johnson have been key assets to Cornell’s defensive success.
“[They] are stepping up,” Hornibrook said. “We are also moving well, and fitness has been good late in the games.”
This ability will be valuable to the Red against the Quakers, as Penn has won its last two games in overtime.
Sunday’s game against UVM is expected to be equally demanding. Despite having beaten UVM 2-0 in the 2015 season, the women are taking their season one game at a time, staying conscious that “you can’t predict a game,” as Hornibrook said.
The Catamounts are currently ranked 51, according to the NCAA Division I standings. As Cornell is ranked 47th, the game is likely to be even.
“We need to maintain good pressure and to make sure whoever is defending the girl on the ball has support,” Hornibrook said. “If we do that, nine out of 10 times it will work in our favor.”
UVM sophomore forward Landen Warren has scored double what its second highest scoring player has made this season. However, this threat does not faze the Red, as it views defense as a cooperative effort from all players on the field.
“If we do a good job from the front to the back, it will help everyone,” Horibrook said.
Despite all of this preparation and focus on the opponent, the Red knows that staying within itself will be the most important thing.
“We have total respect for both teams we’re playing,” Hornibrook said. “We will focus on playing our style and working to the best of our abilities.”
The Red will have the home field spirit from the Cornell students, faculty, parents, and alumni who are visiting for Homecoming weekend. The Red will take on Penn this Saturday at noon and UVM this Sunday at 1 p.m. at home.
“We are excited about the challenges coming our way,” said Hornibrook.