September 12, 2003

Beautiful Game

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Two seasons ago, women’s soccer head coach Berhane Andeberhan brought his first recruiting class to the East Hill and began to change the face of soccer at Cornell. Starting in the fall of 2001, Andeberhan laid the groundwork of a new style of play, a system similar to that of the Brazilian National Team. Such a system is not often installed at many American colleges, both because it is difficult for players to absorb and also because few coaches in the U.S. are skilled enough to understand and teach it. Andeberhan, however, is up to the task.

“Berhane is the most knowledgeable soccer coach I’ve ever been around; he’s especially good at conveying to us what he knows,” said senior defender Lindsay Rovegno, a tri-captain for 2003. “He’s everything a coach, a leader, and a motivator should be.”

The system itself is extremely complex.

“It has us playing more possession through the midfield and focusing on finding the forwards,” said senior tri-captain Jo Galardy, an outside back. “We’re creating some dangerous scoring opportunities.”

“It’s a more organized system, as opposed to just random soccer,” said junior forward Emily Wyffels. “It connects the offense and the defense more fluidly, allowing us to penetrate deeper into the offensive third of the field. After playing the last two years and working hard this past spring, I think we’re all finally on the same page as a team.”

And what a team it is. The Red has a deep and experienced returning roster, including three All-Ivy honorable mention recipients — Rovegno, sophomore forward Shannon Fraser, and junior goalkeeper Katie Thomas. The squad, including eight of the starting 11, reported to Ithaca for the August preseason in top form.

“There are four parts to soccer: tactical, technical, physical, and mental. Everyone came back to school very sharp in all four areas,” said Rovegno. “They’ve set the tone and showed the freshmen what a Division I soccer team is all about.”

The seven freshmen, along with one transfer, “look really good” according to Wyffels.

“The frosh are awesome. They all came in wanting to win,” said Rovegno.

Even this early in the season, many of the freshmen have contributed greatly to the team. In the game against Syracuse last Monday, both Caitlin Oliver and Jessica Snyder saw large chunks of playing time in the midfield. “Jess came in and really helped us settle down,” said Andeberhan. “She’s one of our best players at changing the point of attack.”

With so many returning stars, a strong bench, and solid new additions, the Red is at a watershed moment in the development of the team. Certainly, it is poised to improve drastically upon last year’s 2-5 mark in Ivy League play (9-6-2 overall), especially considering that only one of the losses (at Harvard) was by more than two goals. They have the ability to “make a difference in the Ivy League,” according to Galardy.

“I think I speak for everyone when I say we can win the Ivy title,” said Wyffels. “It’s not that we’re looking past anyone, but we’re definitely looking for success this season.”

With only one shot at each Ancient Eight school per season and without the presence of a league tournament, each of those seven games will be hard-fought barn-burners sure to display some inspiring and gutsy soccer.

“Every single team [in the Ivy League] is so strong, you can’t take anyone lightly,” said Rovegno. “I think it’s one of the toughest leagues out there.”

Cornellians will be able to see three of those matches (versus Columbia, Harvard, and Brown) on the pitch at Berman Field.

Ultimately, the Red will take each successive game as the most important game it will play all year, thanks to the professionalism and maturity coach Andeberhan has instilled in his charges.

“We’re a better team because of his guidance,” said Wyffels.

With that kind of winning mentality and a crop of hungry players, 2003 has the potential to be the best women’s soccer season in recent memory.

“We’re all really excited about the season and have come together as a team both on the field and off the field so quickly,” said Rovegno with palpable excitement. “We’re ready for anything that comes our way.”

Archived article by Per Ostman