Cornell’s field hockey team has maintained many elements from last year heading into the 2003 season. Eight starters return from the 2002 campaign, which registered a school record nine wins (9-8, 3-4 Ivy). All three leading scorers are back, as is a goalie who held the fifth-highest save percentage in the country. Yet, there is one big difference this season — the person directing the team. Phillip Sykes came to Ithaca this summer to act as an interim coach while head coach Michelle Tambroni is on maternity leave. With this change at the helm, the question this season becomes whether Sykes’s system of play can bring the Red to challenge the likes of Princeton and Harvard for an Ivy title.
“Our goal for this year is to improve every game and have the girls trust our coaching staff and our new style of play,” said Sykes of the transition. “The coaching part has been great, though everything else will take awhile.”
Sykes will have a talented group to work with.
Up front, Cornell returns two of its top scorers from a year ago, making the Red’s offense as dangerous as ever. Seniors Carissa Mirasol and Lindsay Grace will look to increase upon the team-leading 17 points that each registered a year ago. Mirasol, who is only the second player in Cornell history to be named an All-American, enters the season seventh all-time in career points with 47.
Grace, who was a second team All-Ivy selection a year ago, has improved her game every year she has been at Cornell. She ranks eighth all-time in career points with 40. Serving as one of the tri-captains of the team, she will be a leader up front.
Joining Mirasol and Grace on attack is junior Sara Weiner, who is poised to have a breakout season after registering her first two collegiate goals last year. Classmate Gina Testa’s play has been impressive as of late, especially in the Red’s summer tour of the United Kingdom. Junior Julie Huang, who started in 10 contests last season, will also look to make significant contributions up front, while classmate Jamie Woolsley will return from an injury, which plagued her 2002 season. Freshman Sarah Bernstein also looks to gain experience this season.
In the midfield, senior tri-captain Karleigh Burns will lead a talented group that should provide the Red with an effective transition game. Joining Burns will be juniors Stephanie Maher and Danielle Dunn. Sophomore Blair Corcoran will look to get more playing time this year, while freshmen Lisa Kenney, Sarah Miller, and Lindsay Moyer will also look to make contributions to the program.
The backfield is led by second-team All-Ivy member and senior tri-captain Kimmy Gardner, who was tied with Mirasol and Grace for the team lead in points last season with 17. Gardner should continue to frustrate opposing teams as the team’s sweeper.
Senior Ali Winsky, who started 17 games last year and led the team in defensive saves, will join Gardner in the backfield. Also in the backfield is senior Kelly Soltis, who is coming off an injury that kept her out for most of last season. Sophomores Natalie Serle and Kirsten Balzer are looking to make bigger impacts after strong rookie efforts. Freshmen Lee Evans, Katie Storey, and walk-on Amy Fredericks should fit right in and will look to become key reserves.
Returning senior Kaitlin Tierney enters her final season after posting an impressive .814 save percentage last year, a noticeable improvement from the year before. Her backup, junior Lori Blutinger, should also see a good amount of playing time as well.
With the talent that the team possesses, the squad has the potential for a strong season if it can make the proper adjustments coming into this season.
“Obviously we want to get to the NCAA tournament and a share of the Ivy title,” said Sykes. “But we must first do everything else right if we are to get there.”
Archived article by Chris Callanan