After a disappointing stretch of non-conference play, the Red was looking to start a winning trend in its Ivy League opener against Columbia on Friday night. A strong effort produced weak results, however, in a 3-1 loss to the Lions (3-5). The team was able to bounce back on Sunday with a strong 2-0 win against Niagara (2-7). Despite the loss, Cornell started Friday’s match with a lot of energy, something that was often lacking in its previous defeats.
“The team came out with the most energy and excitement that I’ve seen them play [with] the entire season,” said head coach Danielle LaRoche. “We did a great job of pressing Columbia early and had them a little bit on their heels ... In the past when we’ve played Columbia, in the first half they’ve had the possession for most of the time, so having time of possession being equal if not a little bit in our favor was a victory over the past.”
The Lions, who came into the game having won two straight, took the lead with 15 minutes left in the half on a corner kick that was settled and shot into the goal. The half ended with Columbia ahead, 1-0.
The Red went on the attack to start the second half, and eventually cashed in at 64:35 on an 18-yard strike by junior forward Maneesha Chitanvis.
“Columbia attempted to block the ball, but Maneesha did a great job of picking the ball off them, leading, turning and firing a shot that went straight into the corner,” LaRoche explained.
This was the first time the Red came back to tie a game this season, but it forfeited the lead for good on a costly own-goal in the 70th minute.
“The Columbia player threw it in and a Columbia forward and Cornell defender both went up for it and missed it,” LaRoche said. “To her surprise it hit off another of our defenders and bounced over the goalie into the goal.”
Aside from giving Columbia the lead, the own goal hurt the morale and tempo of the team.
“It broke our momentum — any time a team earns a goal off of a mistake that you’ve made, it can cause you to be disappointed and upset and I think it broke us down a bit,” LaRoche said. “It took us a while to get our energy back and go at them again.”
The Lion’s third goal was its second off a corner kick and third off a ball sent towards the box. Improving on its corner-kick defense was a key to the victory over Niagara on Sunday.
“Everyone has a mark so it’s one on one and it’s a matter of staying with your player throughout the play,” said senior goaltender Megan Bartlett. “We didn’t do well with that on Friday, and we worked on it in practice on Saturday and did a much better job with that on Sunday.”
With just one day off after its tough loss to Columbia, the Red faced a challenge in bringing its best play against Niagara on Sunday.
“During the first half we came out a little flat,” La Roche said. “I think that whenever you play a big Ivy League game on Friday night it’s going to be difficult to get excited about an out-of conference opponent on Sunday. But the girls worked out of it and noticed that the first half was not really what we wanted to do as a team, and they fixed it in the second half and had a lot of shots on goal and finished those chances.”
After a scoreless first half, Cornell broke through on another goal by Chitanvis, her team-leading fourth of the year.
“She had the ball on the end line and the goalkeeper just stepped a little bit off the post, and she put the shot in between the post and the keeper,” LaRoche remarked. “She had an extraordinary weekend.”
The victory gives the Red confidence going into its match against Lafayette today. A victory would build the team’s momentum heading into Friday’s contest with Penn.
“Beating Niagara solidified our attitude that we’re playing good soccer right now,” LaRoche said. “The girls are excited about the level of soccer they’re playing. Again, minimizing the mistakes and finishing our chances will be key to getting these two victories.”
“Everyone was really excited about the win on Sunday and looks forward to getting two more wins tomorrow and over the weekend,” Bartlett added.