There’s six point three seconds left, and Cornell is down by two. Senior tri-captain Karen Force receives the ball and dribbles down the court. She spots a lane opening on the left side of the paint and drives towards the basket. With time winding down, Force moves in and throws up a shot. The ball bounces off the glass, off the front of the rim and in. 0.9 seconds remain on the clock, and Force has just tied the game against two-time defending league champ Harvard.
It’s this kind of lightning-quick decision making that has come to characterize Force as a, well, force to be reckoned with.
“As far as that last lay-up and that last situation goes, it’s something that you kind of have to recognize as it happens. It’s nothing you can really draw up.” said Force. “We have an idea what we want to do and where we want specific people to be, and within that, given what the defense gives you or what they take away, you kind of have to play with that. The lane looked like it opened up, so I took my chance, I guess.”
The Red went on to win the game in overtime four weeks ago, handing the Crimson its first conference road loss since 2000. Force’s quick decision making in the final seconds helped the Red avenge a double-overtime loss from two years earlier against Harvard, and she has been making big plays on the court during her four years at Cornell. While her playing days on the East Hill are almost over, basketball is something that will always be a part of Force’s life.
Growing up, Force developed a passion for the game, going to great lengths to play year round.
“My mom would go to Target and get those little stretchy gloves with the sticky rubber pieces, and I’d shovel the driveway, and turn on the driveway lights, and play at night in the winter,” Force said.
This year she has the added challenge of playing through a knee injury. While it has been an obstacle on the court, Force has become a tougher and stronger player because of the experience.
“She’s just been gritty, tough, playing through pain — pain, not only physical but probably emotional and mental because it’s a tough thing to take. She just steps up at huge moments. She’s probably one of the toughest people I’ve ever been around, and it’s pretty amazing to see,” said head coach Dayna Smith.
Even though her injury has limited her this season, Force has still made a great impact on the court. She averages the second-most minutes on the team, and leads the team in assists. While sometimes her contributions do not always show up in the box score, her teammates and coaches know that she plays with great passion and competitiveness anytime she is out on the floor.
“A lot of times you don’t realize [point guards] have good games, because it doesn’t show up on box scores. Her great games are when our team is clicking, and she’s getting us in offenses, and she’s breaking presses and getting us fired up,” said Smith.
Force displays a humble attitude on and off the court, always putting the team first.
“She is very humble and I think as a point guard you need to be humble. Your first priority is to make the other players look better and to run the show a little bit, and I think she definitely has the qualities of a person that enable her to be a good point guard. She’s very unselfish, she just cares about the team,” Smith said.
As a senior, Force has had the opportunity to mentor the younger players, including freshman point guard Katherine Stritzl. It is a role that Force is happy to take on.
“The mentoring position is always one that is unique but fun to fulfill because to try to help someone out in your own position, and to see them click with things and start to understand things, it’s really fun to see. Stritz’s is a hard worker, she’s a great kid, and I know she’ll come into her own here,” said Force.
Force has made her mark on Cornell basketball during her career, breaking several program records along the way. However, personal records are the last thing on her mind.
“I think that she’s not only a good player, she’s a good teammate, she’s a good person. [A person like Force] just doesn’t come around everyday. She’s very unselfish, and for someone as talented as her, it’s just really refreshing to be around,” commented Smith.
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach