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It was 11:30 in the morning yesterday when the women of Cornell soccer lined up on Charles H. Berman Field to face Eastern Washington University. Several clusters of dedicated fans and family members huddled together under umbrellas and blankets as a steady drizzle fell.
The dismal atmosphere of the Sunday morning game spoke volumes, as, despite all of the confidence in the team, the Red was not able to pull out a win, suffering a 3-1 loss to Eastern Washington to open the season 0-2.
“Well it’s not the start we hoped for,” said head coach Dwight Hornibrook. “But what I’m taking away from this game is a bad start with a good ending.”
The Eagles scored two of their three goals in the first five minutes of the game. It was not until the 17th minute, when Cornell senior forward Paige DeLoach made a valiant breakaway shot that got saved by the Eagles’ goalie Emily Busselman, that there was any indication that Cornell would be able to push through.
But Eastern Washington managed a third goal in the 31st minute, cutting momentum garnered by the Red.
“None of us were really expecting it to go like this,” DeLoach said. “I don’t know, but it feels like the timing was off or something. We have plenty of time … to get things together, and I feel like we get things together more and more every time we play.”
The mentality of the team appeared to shift dramatically at the start of the second half. The Red began to play a more physical game, shown by adding five fouls to the first half’s one. Eastern Washington University also stepped its game up and attempted seven more shots, but Cornell goalies, junior Meghan Kennedy and sophomore Chrissy Mayer, managed to save them all in the second half and kept the Eagles’ lead to three.
“At halftime I said [that] we can’t change what’s happened in the first half but we can do better in the second, and I think we did that,” Hornibrook said. “We have a lot of young kids just getting some experience, so this is what happens … You make silly mistakes and you pay for it. We can’t change the fact that we make mistakes and gave up silly goals, but I guess we came back with the right spirit, the right attitude, the right commitment, and it raises the confidence.”
This new mentality led to DeLoach scoring the first goal of the season off of an assist by senior midfielder Katerina Weikert in the 70th minute.
Fellow midfielder, freshman Shelby Wray, attributed the long wait for the first goal to the chemistry of a relatively new team and how they are continuing to figure each other as they go.
“The atmosphere itself, even at practice, is so much more competitive, and we have a group of people who want to work really hard for each other,” she said. “I feel like I did well with the people around me and I think that they kind of rose my game, just because they were playing so competitively, and so I think collectively as a group made me individually better.”
The positivity of the new coaching staff is apparent, even after losing to Syracuse last week. With tough games to start the year, the team hopes it pays off in the future with important Ivy play looming.
“I’m glad we’re playing good teams at the start of the season because they’re going to teach us what we can’t do,” Hornibrook said. “I said to the team at the end of the game, ‘Look I’m measuring how we’re going to do by the spirit of this team, and the spirit of the team in the second half was much better.’”
The second half of the Eastern Washington game was much louder, as the women were more lively in their yells across the field to each other. This was something DeLoach noticed in the shift from former head coach Patrick Farmer to Hornibrook.
“Definitely it’s been different,” Deloach said, with a laugh. “[Hornibrook’s] been more kind of conservative and reserved when the game is on, so he gives us a lot more responsibility on the field to be talking to each other and keeping ourselves accountable. He gives us pointers here and there but it’s way more pressure on us … to keep each other accountable.”
On top of that, she said she notices a shift in mood even if the efforts are not paying off in the win column quite yet.
“It’s just a more positive environment,” DeLoach added. “Things don’t always go your way and you want them to go your way, but when they don’t, you have to be ready to deal with that, so I think that’s something that [Hornibrook’s] really trying to help us with.”
The Red is hoping to use this positive mindset to bounce back on the road against Buffalo on Friday, Sept. 8.