After two seasons of toiling in the bottom half of the Ivy League, the women’s soccer team enters the new season looking to shake up the league hierarchy and take its place among the division’s elite. The Red was 4-8-3 last season with only one league win, but judging this team by its 2001 win-loss record figures to be a serious mistake. In his third season as head coach, Berhane Andeberhan has assembled a talented squad of players capable of matching up against any opponent. More importantly, the enthusiasm Andeberhan has brought to the women’s soccer program has started to rub off on his players.
“Our players came back really fit, in midseason form,” he said. “This sets a good tone for the new kids — everyone knows this is the standard. They have really dedicated themselves to working hard. They are really coachable, willing to accept new ideas, and have accepted a single style of play suited for our situation.”
Star midfielder Sarah Olsen returns for one final year, looking to build on her stellar 2001 season, when she was named an All-Ivy second team selection. Olsen’s playmaking ability and tireless work ethic will be pivotal in the Red’s bid to climb out of the Ivy League cellar. While she has carried the load for most of her three years at Cornell, she will be aided this time around by the arrival of an exciting freshmen class.
“They are freshmen in year but are from very strong, established programs,” said Andeberhan. “They’ve played in major tournaments, major events, and participated in Olympic development programs.”
“We worked hard to recruit players,” admitted Andeberhan. “We’ve been gearing recruiting toward people who are gonna come in and challenge for positions.”
Indeed, two of the freshmen, Shannon Fraser and Kara Ishikawa, have already broken into the lineup early on in the year. Fraser has thrilled Andeberhan with her play up front, while Ishikawa has settled in nicely into midfield.
If early season form is anything to go by, Andeberhan’s side could be the most improved team in the Ivy League. With a 2-1 away win against a strong Columbia outfit in the second week of the season, the Red sent out a warning to the rest of the league.
“We were competitive with everybody last year in a tough league — four of eight teams made the playoffs. Our goal is to be in the top half of eight teams. Columbia, Brown, Yale, and Penn are the teams we can beat. We are definitely going in the right direction.”
The Red’s offense will certainly not be lacking talent this year. Junior Emily Knight returns after a very strong season where she led the team in goal scoring. In addition, Fraser should make a big impact this fall. She has already registered four points in her first three Cornell games.
While Olsen is the impact player of the midfield, she will have plenty of help. Senior Cailin Rice returns for her final season with the Red after playing in every game last year. Rice was second among Cornell midfielders in scoring last year, finishing the season with one goal and three assists. Despite an already strong midfield, the booters’ new freshmen should make quite a few waves.
“She should have a very significant impact on [the Red’s] play,” Andeberhan said of Hawaiian native, Ishikawa, who already has one assist on the season.
In addition, freshman Ali Gombar should make an impression. So far, both Ishikawa and Gombar have played in every match.
Juniors Karne Hukee and Lindsay Rovegno and sophomore Natalie Dew all return to the Red’s back line. So far, all have played well this season, holding the opposition to an average of 0.60 goals per game. Freshman Phela Townsend, standing at an intimidating 5-7, should help the Red quite a bit. Her size will help fill the size gap that existed all through last year. And just in case anyone thought that size never comes with talent, Townsend has already shown some of her skill, registering a goal in only her second college game.
Sophomore Katie Thomas will once again be the Red’s last line of defense. Thomas proved herself to be an incredible talent in 2001, producing an impressive .839 save percentage, and a 1.25 GAA. Her performance this year has been excellent, allowing only one goal in her first three games.
Archived article by Michael Pandolfini