Coming off a disappointing 2011 season, the field hockey team is determined to bounce back strongly in 2012. The season begins Friday night with a road match against the Lock Haven Eagles — a team that Cornell has beaten in each of their past three contests.
The Red returns home the following day to face the No.2-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in the first-ever matchup between the two squads. Heading into these games, Cornell is focused on raising and its level of play to achieve its goals.
“The coach has frequently used the phrase ‘raising the bar,’’ said senior back Paige Mollineaux. “What she means by that is raising the bar mentally, physically, and achieving our goal of finishing within the top three in the ivy league this year. We didn’t do so well last year, and so we’re making strides to raise the bar all around.”
According to junior forward Hannah Balleza, the Red knows that starting the season with a victory can be a jump start to a successful year. “We’re going into it with an open mind and we know we will certainly have to work hard, but to get the win would be great,” she said.In its home opener on Saturday, the Red will face a formidable opponent in the No.2 Tar Heels. North Carolina reached the national championship game last year and will certainly be a challenge for Cornell. However, according to Balleza, facing a strong opponent early in the season is a good test of how well the team is playing and where it needs to improve. “We haven’t really played any teams that are that highly ranked, and it will definitely show us where we’re at,” she said. “Hopefully we will all be on the same page for that game and will work hard to show that we can match up to them. It should be an interesting game for sure.” Cornell has already played pre-season games in preparation for the season. According to Mollineaux, the team identified its weaknesses in those matches and has worked to correct them in preparation for tonight’s game.“We learned where we were breaking down and where we needed to improve,” she said. “We learned that we needed to work on those things in practice, because we don’t want the same things to happen in real games.”According to Balleza, strong and coordinated leadership are essential to having a successful season.“Leadership will be really important for us this year because in order for us to do well on the field, we need people to help direct other players,” she explained. “We have a lot of freshman who are doing really well, but they don’t have enough experience to always knowing where to go on the field, so leadership there is really important. The Red has made tactical adjustments in order to improve its play, according to Balleza. “Last year was a little more disconnected, but now we’re playing four defenders, three midfielders, 2 strikers, and one flow player,” she said. “Its a shift from the way we played last year, and so far its been working pretty well. Cornell has a new assistant coach this season, who made the team’s preparation challenging, but educational. According to Mollineaux, he has instilled confidence in individual players and in the team as a whole.“Our new assistant coach is tough, but we’re also learning a lot,” she said. “He really emphasizes that each of us should work on our strengths, so just being confident in knowing what are strengths are as individual players will help build our confidence as a whole. “We are definitely more confident and more prepared than we were last year.”