For 75 minutes on a damp afternoon at Berman Field, the women’s soccer team (3-1. 1-1 Ivy) gave the defending Ivy League champions a run for their money. A marvelous equalizer from junior Emily Knight had canceled out a first half strike from Penn’s All-American Katie Cross, and the game looked poised to swing in either direction. However, with only 14 minutes to go, Cross latched on to a Devon Sibole through-ball before slotting the ball past Red sophomore keeper Katie Thomas for the game-winning goal.
“It was a good game,” observed Cornell coach Berhane Andeberhan. “I think they put us under a little bit of pressure in the first half. We didn’t find our rhythm right away. But partly, you have to give credit to Penn. We had good chances, we had one that hit the post in the first half, with our goal, maybe we relaxed, but that’s football.”
Penn (4-2, 1-0) had the brighter of the opening exchanges, keeping the Red camped in its half with some fluid short passing. Cross gave a warning of what was to come with a surging run down the left wing, only to be denied by a timely challenge from junior Karne Hukee.
The battle in the middle area of the field was won by a Penn midfield that was doing its best to disrupt the Red’s buildup play. With the Quakers quickly closing down any open players, Cornell began to resort to simply thumping the ball upfield.
It was one such hopeful ball that nearly turned the game on its head. As Penn’s defense failed to deal adequately with a long pass over the top, Whitney Cale closed in on goal. The junior midfielder’s left-foot shot had keeper Vanessa Scotto beaten, but the woodwork came to Penn’s rescue, as the ball bounced off the inside of the post and into the arms of Scotto.
Just two minutes later, Cale would rue her missed opportunity. As the ball fell for Cross in the area, two Cornell defenders appeared to go for the ball. In the ensuing mix-up, Cross muscled her way into position before shooting past Thomas to break the scoreless tie.
“We had confusion between the first and second defender,” observed Andeberhan. “Both went for the same thing instead of one of them putting pressure and the other supporting and she [Cross] took advantage of that.”
Having secured the all-important opening goal, the Quakers continued to play with confidence, and Cross nearly doubled her tally at the half hour mark. Another quick counter-attack released the All-American, who took on two defenders before her shot was well saved by Thomas.
As the players trudged off at halftime, the momentum was clearly on the Quakers’ side. Yet, within 49 seconds of the restart, the two sides were on level terms.
Knight had not been included in the starting eleven, but she made her presence felt with her first two touches of the second half. After winning the ball in midfield, she fed a streaking Cale down the left flank. Cale steadied herself before delivering an inch-perfect delivery onto the head of the onrushing Knight, who thundered a powerful header into the Penn net.
The goal clearly rattled the Quakers, and Cornell began to knock the ball around with greater assurance. Freshman Phela Townsend was doing an excellent job in a defensive midfield role, using her strength and ball-winning abilities to disrupt Penn’s passing movements.
Cross was having a relatively quiet second half by her standards, but she kept Cornell’s defense on its feet with her pace and aerial ability. With 17 minutes to go, Devon Sibole’s cross from the right found Cross unmarked at the far post. Cross’s effort had Thomas beaten, but the upright came to Cornell’s rescue on this occasion.
The sophomore, Cross, didn’t have to wait long to redeem herself. At the 75 minute mark, Sibole threaded a ball into the path of Cross, who slid the ball into Thomas’ right hand corner. The flag stayed down, as Penn celebrated what would be the game-winning goal.
“We lost the ball in midfield and got ourselves unbalanced,” said Andeberhan. “It looked close to be an offside, but I’m from an angle so I’m biased, so I have to accept the referee’s decision.”
While the Red’s unbeaten start to the season came to an end, Andeberhan was delighted with the performance of his squad.
“I’m very proud of our kids, absolutely proud. I couldn’t ask any more of them. Their effort, their intelligence, their commitment, I couldn’t ask for anything more. Congratulations to Penn, they did a good job. Gretchen [Zigante] and I have been telling the team, we can play with anybody, we can beat anybody. I think now we can point to this and say do you see what I mean?”
Archived article by Soo Kim