On a rainy Saturday afternoon at Schoellkopf Field, No. 15 Cornell women’s lacrosse fell to 1-1 on the year as sixth-ranked Penn St. squeaked by, 9-8.
The Nittany Lions (5-0) struck first early in the match, but senior captain Catherine Ellis found the back of the net four minutes later to tie it up.
The conditions were not ideal for either team as heavy rain fell throughout the entire contest. With a little more than 20 minutes on the clock, the two teams were forced off the field for a half-hour rain and thunder delay. At that point, Penn St. held a slim 2-1 lead.
“The heavy rain and wind were a challenge for both teams” said head coach Jenny Graap. “We were a bit sluggish coming out of the first weather break and coming out of a shortened halftime break.”
The Red, down 4-1 at the break, quickly found its stride in the second half. Junior Ida Farinholt, who missed large parts of the past two seasons with injuries, scored her first goal since freshman year, followed by a goal from sophomore Sarah Phillips and the game tying goal by Ellis — her second of the game.
The remaining 30 minutes of play were an offensive frenzie: Penn St. took a 6-4 advantage only to have its lead cut in half by junior Joey Coffy soon after. The Nittany Lions pulled away 8-5 with two goals in under a minute, but the persistent Red then fired in two free-position goals from senior Amie Dickson and sophomore Tomasina Leska to make it a game again at 8-7.
A ninth Penn St. goal put the Red down by two with under two minutes on the clock. Phillips then fired in her second goal of the afternoon, cutting the deficit to one goal with little time remaining. A forced turnover gave the Red one final play to tie up the game, but the Lions regained possession with 10 seconds left to seal the deal on a 9-8 victory.
As the final whistle blew, the Red held a 31-18 advantage in shots, it won the ground ball battle 21-15 and it turned the ball over just 14 times compared to Penn St.’s 23. Yet the Nittany Lions finished with 11 faceoff wins to Cornell’s eight — one of its keys to victory.
Sophomore Cait Callahan was happy with the team performance despite the narrow defeat.
“We were well connected on defense and able to come up with some big stops at the end of the game when the score was tight,” she said. “On the defensive end, we were also able to hold some of Penn St.’s top scorers to only a few points.”
Likewise, Graap was proud of the Red’s effort. “Credit goes to stellar defensive performances by senior Catie Smith who caused three turnovers while marking the Nittany Lions top feeder, and junior Cait Callahan with six ground balls and four caused turnovers.”
Graap remains optimistic for the rest of the season in spite of the loss.
“Big picture, our offense needs to be more patient focusing on breaking down the opponent’s D instead of rushing our scoring looks,” she said. “This loss was tough, but the lessons we can learn from it will be hugely beneficial.”
The Red next takes on conference rival No. 12 Penn on Sunday, March 4th.