Coming off its first win of the season last Sunday at Rutgers, the women’s lacrosse team (1-3) will pack its bags to head south to Nashville, Tenn. for spring break. However, instead of an enjoying relaxing week of sun and country music, the Red will square off against No. 10 Vanderbilt on Sunday, before playing Ohio State at the neutral site Tuesday. The team’s break slate culminates in the Red’s first Ivy matchup, a home contest against Penn on March 27 at noon.
The Red’s play has been on a noticeable upswing over the last two games, and individual standouts have abounded on this very young squad. Junior Kristen Smith was recognized as the Tompkins Trust Company Cornell Athlete of the Week for netting seven goals in two games. At the other end of the field, sophomore Lyndsay Robinson garnered an Ivy Defensive Player of the Week honor for her smothering coverage of Rutgers’s leading scorer, Maggie Bopp. Head coach Jenny Graap ’86 also had praise for sophomore goalkeeper Maggie Fava, who compiled 10 saves in only her second career start against the high-scoring Scarlet Knights.
The upcoming games present no easy task. Sunday’s match at Vanderbilt (4-1, 1-0 American Lacrosse Conference) pits the Red against a Commodore team that trounced New Hampshire, 10-3, this week, allowing no second-half goals. Graap recognizes Vanderbilt’s solid defense, but feels that their opponents’ lack of scoring is more a result of the Commodores’ own explosive offense.
“Their biggest strengths are their weapons on the attack,” Graap said. “It’s going to be a very defensive battle for us, and we’re going to need our key defenders to play really well.”
The Red cruised to a 14-6 home victory against Vanderbilt last season, but their 2003 matchup against Ohio State proved to be heartbreaking. Graap believes that her team’s 11-10 overtime loss, which saw the Buckeyes claw back from a three-goal deficit with 10 minutes to play, might have cost the Red an NCAA tournament bid. The Red has had a year to prepare for the rematch, and the coach thinks her team is ready.
“We learned that Ohio State is really scrappy and they’re never going to give up,” she said. “This year we’re preparing for the physical nature of the play. It’ll be tough for us because we’re on spring break and we’ll only have one day to prepare [after the Vanderbilt game], but I think we’ll have a lot of emotion working in our favor. ”
For Smith, the two-game Nashville swing should provide further opportunity for the young Red players to grow closer and more cohesive as a team.
“I think it will allow us to get to know each other better off the field, which can only help our play on the field,” she said. “The week will be important for allowing us to focus on improving at lacrosse, without worrying about academics and other outside pressures. ”
The Red will face the Buckeyes (1-3, 0-2 ALC) next Tuesday before returning to Ithaca for the Saturday visit from Penn (4-2). Even though the Quakers have already fallen to Red-victim Rutgers, Graap knows that anything can happen in any given game.
“We have to make our mark and perform well against Ivy opponents if we want to have any hopes of the postseason,” Graap said. “We need to be ready for a feisty Quaker team.”