The women’s soccer team lost a tough match to No. 19 Princeton 2-0 at Berman Field on Saturday in the team’s final game of the season. The Red (8-5-2, 2-5 Ivy) finishes the year with a winning record for the first time since 1999 and the first time under head coach Berhane Andeberhan’s tenure. With the win, the Tigers (13-2, 6-1) clinched at least a share of the Ivy League title for the third year in a row and earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The teams didn’t only have to fight against each other during the game; the players contended with steady snow throughout most of the 90 minutes which resulted in poor footing at times.
“It was a tough challenge today. I’m proud of our kids’ effort. The conditions were not conducive to the style of game we like to play,” commented Andeberhan. “It’s a lot harder to stroke the ball around, and physically we didn’t match up very well with them. But I’m very proud of what our kids did.”
Princeton dominated the first 10 minutes of play, with the Red only penetrating into the Princeton zone after the opening kickoff. In the first five minutes of play, the Tigers had already won three corners, but sophomore goalie Katie Thomas was able to clear the ball each time.
Freshman forward Shannon Fraser was finally able to bring the ball upfield at the 10-minute mark. She brought the ball all the way up the left side of the field before crossing it into the middle, and the resulting shot was high. The Red got its first corner shortly afterwards, but was unable to convert.
Princeton was physical early on, committing numerous fouls in the first half. The Tigers had a good scoring chance when Thomas came out to collect the ball, but was unable to smother it. Fortunately for the Red, junior back Karne Hukee was there to clear it and prevent Princeton from getting a shot on the open net.
Freshman back Phela Townsend entered the game midway through the half, and provided a counter to the physical play of the Tigers. She outmuscled several Princeton players in the Cornell zone, helping to clear the ball upfield. On another Princeton drive, Thomas came out almost to the 18-yard line, but was unable to clear the ball. Hukee again came up with a big play, as she was able to clear the ball past a swarming Tiger offense.
“Our defense, like they have done all year, kept us in the game. We made a couple of mistakes early in the first half. We were concerned about their front-runners, and our transition game wasn’t as good as it had been lately,” said Andeberhan. “We talked about it at halftime, and we got it cleaned up. Our defense has been very consistent, very solid all year.”
The Red was able to generate some more offense as it outmaneuvered the Tigers at midfield, and sent the ball up to junior Jo Galardy, whose far shot was saved by Princeton keeper Jean Poster.
With the snow letting up in the latter part of the first half, the booters charged upfield with a three-on-three rush. Senior co-captain Sarah Olsen got the ball on the right side and fired a shot towards the left post, but Poster deflected the ball out of bounds.
Junior co-captain Lindsay Rovegno was superb on defense as she raced downfield to prevent a Princeton breakaway on several occasions. On one drive, Rovegno stopped the Tiger rush, resulting in three successive corners for Princeton that did not produce any goals.
With under five minutes remaining in the half, Townsend received the ball at Princeton’s 18-yard line. A Princeton defender held her, but a foul was not called as Townsend continued to force her way towards the goal. Another Princeton defender then tripped her, resulting in a Cornell free kick. On the ensuing play, the booters beat out Poster for the first goal of the game, but the score was negated because the Red went offside.
Another Cornell free kick set up a header that went wide right. Princeton then brought the ball into the Cornell zone. Sophomore Janine Willis crossed the ball to freshman Maura Gallagher, who put the ball past Thomas from eight yards out to break the scoreless tie in the 42nd minute.
In the 44th minute, Princeton struck again, this time off of a corner kick. Gallagher took the kick from the left side, and Thomas was unable to get control of the ball, accidentally deflecting it into the net.
“The second goal was pure luck. I would give her the ball at the corner a 100 times and I’ll bet her my best soccer shoes that she could score one. But it happens,” remarked Andeberhan. “The first goal, we didn’t play that very well. Our own people were in the way of our goalkeeper getting to the ball. They’re trying to save us, and errors of commission I can always deal with,” he continued.
Princeton came out strong at the start of the second half, pressuring Thomas early. The Tigers’ leading scorer, Esmeralda Negron, got the ball past the Cornell defense, and made it into the box on a breakaway. Thomas remained in net, and Negron’s shot went high over the crossbar.
Thomas had to contend with numerous shots early in the half, but she received help from the backs and midfielders, including senior midfielder Cailin Rice, who had several good stops on defense. The booters were unable to get a shot off in the first 15 minutes of the second half, as Princeton’s physical play stifled the Cornell offense. Junior Emily Knight tried to spark the Red offense, as she broke through the Princeton defense and forced a corner.
On a Princeton push into the Cornell zone, Townsend battled several Tigers for the ball, and fell to the ground. She hurt her shoulder, which she had injured earlier in the season, and had to be helped off of the field. Townsend did not return to the game.
Late in the game, the Tigers became extra physical, constantly fouling the booters as they tried to bring the ball into the Tiger zone. Princeton back Rochelle Willis fouled Knight on two consecutive drives upfield. The dirty play by Princeton did not go unnoticed, as the referee booked two Tigers for yellow cards.
“What I’m proud of is we’re observing a lot of fouls, a lot of questionable play, really dirty play in the second half, but we still continued to play, and not get drawn into that and emotionally lose our composure and get drawn out of the game,” said Andeberhan.
Olsen and Fraser were stellar in the waning minutes of the game, as they both were able to get the ball past the defense to set up some scoring chances. Their efforts weren’t enough, as the Red was unable to find the back of the net. The Tigers outshot the booters 26-12 and held the advantage in corner kicks with 16 to the Red’s three. Princeton committed a large amount of fouls during the match with a total of 17 to Cornell’s six. Thomas finished the game with nine saves, while Poster had three and earned her fifth shutout of the season.
“It was a great season. We knew we would improve, and we put the foundation we had to put on. I was kind of expecting if we had a break-even season, I thought it would be good, in terms of wins and losses. We wanted to establish a way to play,” said Andeberhan. “Conditions were such that we couldn’t quite do it today, but we played really well, and the results were actually beyond my expectations. I’m very satisfied with the season.”
While the booters are a fairly young team, they will miss the presence of impact players Olsen and Rice next season, who led the team at midfield all year. Olsen was the leader of the team both on and off the field, and finished her Cornell career with 18 goals, seventh-best in program history. Rice was a big presence in the midfield, setting up offensive plays and contributing to the defensive effort.
The Red set a program reco
rd with a 10-game unbeaten streak against non-conference opponents dating back to the 2001 season. The team also recorded three straight road wins for the first time since 1993.
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach