It’s do or die time for the Big Red field hockey squad (8-7, 3-2 Ivy). Down to its last pair of games of the season and facing must-win situations in both of them, Cornell not only has to overcome a pair of worthy opponents, but internal distractions as well.
This afternoon the only undefeated team in the Ivy League, the Princeton Tigers (11-3, 5-0 Ivy), visits Schoellkopf Field in a match that marks the toughest challenge to the Red all year. Princeton, the sixth-ranked team in the country, is riding a six-game winning streak into the contest. It has allowed just one goal over its last four games, and is most recently coming off of a 2-0 shutout on Sunday of a strong Connecticut team.
“They’re very fast, they play a nice wide-open game. Their forwards are extremely, extremely fast and talented, we just have to slow them down,” head coach Michelle Tambroni noted. However, she added, “I don’t think my team is intimidated, we keep reminding each other that they’re another Ivy League school, they’re not a scholarship program.”
Despite all this, the Red will have to shut the Tigers down if it wants to remain alive in the Ivy standings. It is in third place now, two games behind Princeton. With a win today and another win in the season finale against Dartmouth next week, along with help from Penn and Columbia later in the week, it is possible for Cornell to wind up atop the Ancient Eight in a three-way tie with Harvard and Princeton. Unlikely, but possible.
The team is looking at the opportunity, though, as “exciting for them to really prove a point to the world of hockey, and to the players who have left our team this fall, and really just gave up when the chips fell down for them,” head coach Michelle Tambroni stated. “This could be an opportunity for the rest of the team to say, ‘We stuck it out. We beat Princeton.'”
More important to the game at hand is the sudden collapse of the Red roster. After a hot start, Cornell has been plagued by injuries, the latest of which was a concussion that struck senior goaltender Maureen Sullivan down in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Albany. Freshman Kaitlin Tierney will get her first career start today against the Ivy league’s top offense.
Sophomore Anna Starkey, who leads the Red with 10 goals this year, also dealt the squad a bombshell heading into the Princeton game. Starkey quit the team on Sunday for personal reasons, playing her last game in the Albany defeat.
“It’s very distracting to this team, but I think everybody’s trying to rally without her,” Tambroni said. “I think everybody’s very angry about that situation.”
The game must go on, however, and so the Red will have to shuffle its lineup and its system in order to deal with the absence.
“We’re going to play a different pressure-styled defense for their offense, and I think we’ve got a lot of very quick players that we’re going to use. We’re definitely going to use Annie [O’Rourke], we’re definitely going to use Carissa [Mirasol], we’re definitely going to use Sam Ade, who has been mentioned a lot. She’s coming on strong, and I’m excited to see what she can do out there,” Tambroni commented. “But we need goal output, and we need to figure out who’s going to be able to get the job done.”
In spite of all of the distractions that have come of late, the Red has compiled an impressive season so far. One disappointment throughout the schedule, though, has been the empty stands for Cornell’s home games.
“I think our fan support has been lacking, and it affects our players a lot,” Tambroni mentioned. “It’s really sad, especially when the number six team in the country is coming in, and we have an opportunity to beat them. I hope we do have some new faces on the sideline.”
Archived article by Alex Fineman