When a torn ACL took out star then junior Sophia Smith in the regular season finale against Yale last year, the injury seemed to plague the rest of the Cornell women’s soccer team as well.
The speedy striker had contributed seven of the team’s 25 goals, even while consistently attracting extra marking from defenders. Her tremendous work ethic and willingness to take on an unfair load eventually backfired, however, as Smith slipped while taking off during a breakaway. Undermanned and uninspired, the Red fell 5-0 that game, and followed with a disappointing 2-0 loss to Villanova in the ECAC tournament.
“[The coaching staff] could understand what happened because of how much Sophia meant to the team,” first-year coach Berhane Andeberhan recalls. “We don’t blame [the team]. We lost [the games] when Sophia went down.”
As the 2000 season rolls around, Andeberhan will not have his “Ole Reliable” back. Smith worked vigorously over the summer and rehabilitated her ACL, only to tear her meniscus weeks before the season’s start. Factor in senior Radha Agrawal’s second ACL injury, and the Red has lost two of its best attackers.
Yet Andeberhan remains undaunted, and is confident that he and new assistant coach Christine Bates will turn last year’s squad (9-8-1, 2-4 Ivy) into a formidable one. The Red placed sixth in the Ivies last year, and a top-three finish this season could easily catapult the team into the NCAA tournament.
“We are building a strong contender, a championship type team,” Andeberhan adds. “We have established a new standard, to elevate ourselves to a new level.”
Andeberhan has brought European soccer running routes into the mill, and takes the practices seriously. Not only are each player’s times posted outside the soccer office, as detailed analyses with standard deviations are shown as well.
“They march until near exhaustion,” Andeberhan described.
Team captains, senior Sarah Natchez and junior Julie DeMichele, will enforce the team’s goals onto the field. Already the duo’s command and respect have been tested, as an NCAA sanction cut the Red’s official preseason one week short. Natchez and DeMichele responded by having the whole team attend eight captain’s practices, each one as organized and as valuable as the coach’s practices.
“I try to lead the team through example, and it worked out great,” DeMichele said. “We were able to jump into the season with a great plus.”
“It’s like having two [coaches] on the field,” as Andeberhan put it. “[They’re] the best two captains I’ve ever had.”
With a plethora of talented midfielders, Cornell will have every opportunity to create scoring opportunities. Natchez and sophomore Sarah Olsen power a five-player midfield that will have more freedom in attacking than in the previous season. The Red can ultimately dominate its opponents’ defense with sheer numbers and blazing speed, once everybody plays to their fullest potential.
“We just have so much depth at midfield,” Olsen said. “We’re still trying to get it all together, but we also have good communication and play good as a unit.”
“If we have so much talent at that position, then why wouldn’t we play them?” Andeberhan asked. “Last year we placed too much burden on our forwards. We’ve improved our midfield tremendously.”
The injuries to Smith and Agrawal will make room for a two freshmen. Emily Knight and Alicia Doolittle are part of an impressive recruiting class, and will complement junior Erica Olsen at forward. “We’ve been needing our forwards to score,” DeMichele said, referring to the loss to Villanova despite outshooting the Wildcats 20-13. “The freshmen just have a nose for the net.”
DeMichele, an Ivy honorable mention last year, will be joined in the backfield by alongside mainstays sophomore Amy Hart and junior Ellen Daly.
Senior keeper Meghan Cauzillo returns this year, posting a 1.88 goals against average last year. Senior Martha Shaghnessy, who played in nine games last year, will likely share more time at goal this year.
Archived article by Simon Chan