Cornell field hockey head coach Donna Hornibrook has long lauded her goalie tandem of sophomore Maddie Henry and senior Kelly Johnson as the best the nation has to offer. With Henry entering Saturday’s contest against Penn riding a more than 240-minute shutout streak, it is hard to argue with that conclusion.
But against the Quakers (4-4, 1-0 Ivy), the Red (5-2, 0-1) was unable to continue its hot start to open the season, dropping its Ivy League opener, 2-0, ending Henry’s shutout streak at 253 minutes and 21 seconds — the second longest in program history.
“Our goalies have been outstanding, but we just know that we need to have more energy on both offense and defense,” Hornibrook said. “We really let ourselves down against Penn in what was an uncharacteristic performance by our team.”
The loss to Penn to open Ivy play comes after the team started its season dominant, winning five of its first six games. Though Saturday was not the result the team was hoping for, the Red knows it needs to put the loss in its back pocket.
“Even though we have had a relatively good start to the season, [Saturday’s] game was certainly a letdown,” Hornibrook said. “But the way we have to look at it is that every game matters and one game does not mean more than another. Now we just have to focus our attention on improving for next week.”
Cornell, which had been strong defensively to begin the year, was focused on ramping up its efforts offensively, most notably by trying to get more corner opportunities. However, the team’s lackluster performance on offense, which saw the Red get just three corners and two shots on goal, ultimately led to its demise against the Quakers.
“It takes a full team effort — from the most defensive player to the most offensive player — to have success offensively,” said senior captain Isabel Josephs. “If we can have more awareness of where our teammates are on the field, and connect our passes better with fewer turnovers, we will have success moving forward. Our corner unit is strong this year, so if we can win more corners I think it will result in goals.”
Defensively, the Red was characteristically solid. But that alone was not enough against a Penn attack led by two-time All-American Alexa Hoover. Just 10 minutes into the game, sophomore Alexa Schneck was able to put the Quakers on the board, ending Henry’s streak. Penn was able to tack on an insurance goal late in the second half on a deflection by junior Rachel Mirkin off a Hoover shot.
Saturday’s game was a mere blip on the radar for an otherwise dominant duo in goal. Henry and Johnson have helped carry the Red to one of its best starts in recent memory, combining to save over 85 percent of shots they have faced, allowing under one goal per game.
The squad will look to rebound when it hosts Ivy League foe Columbia (4-4, 1-0) Saturday. Cornell has won three of its last four meetings with the Lions. And for Columbia, after three losses to begin the year, the Lions have won four of their last five contests.
“I am optimistic that the team will bounce back ready to compete against Columbia Saturday,” Josephs said. “The team is resilient and willing to learn the necessary lessons from the Penn game, but then put the past behind us and move on. We’ve proven how much we are capable of, so with a little belief and a lot of hard work, I know this season can be what we want it to be.”