April 19, 2005

Tortorelli, Hills Share Knowledge With Women's Lacrosse

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Only a few years ago, Laurie Tortorelli was the starting goalie for the Delaware women’s lacrosse team. In 2000, she helped her team earn an NCAA tournament berth. In 2002, she became an All-American, and she now ranks among the top goalies in Delaware history.

Just a year ago, Abbi Hills was leading the Stanford women’s lacrosse team with her talented all-around play. She was a four-year starter, and her name can now be found throughout the Cardinal record books.

Today, both Tortorelli and Hills are helping Cornell, as assistant coaches for head coach Jenny Graap ’86.

“I feel very fortunate to have both Laurie Tortorelli and Abbi Hills on the staff,” Graap said

. Abbi Hills came Cornell in 2004 after a career of brilliant work at Stanford. The Colorado native currently ranks among the program’s all-time leaders in career goals, assists, draw controls, and ground balls.

“This being her first job out of college, and I think she’s doing an excellent job,” Graap said. “I definitely think Abbi has been very helpful, and [she] has a great perspective on the game. Her Stanford experience has been very beneficial to the Cornell program. She brings a lot of knowledge with her from an outstanding coach at Stanford.”

As for Tortorelli, she came to Cornell three years ago. At first, she worked primarily with the goalies, but in August 2004, she was promoted to defensive coordinator and goalkeeper coach.

“She just gets better and better all the time,” Graap said. “I think she’s a really natural and instinctive coach….She’s intense, passionate, and demands a lot of the players. But she certainly has their respect, and they want to work hard for her.”

The Pennsylvania native was one of the nation’s best goalkeepers in her playing days, and her ability and knowledge have helped junior goalie Maggie Fava. Graap also credited Tortorelli with playing a key role in improving Cornell’s overall defense this year.

“I think she has been instrumental in developing Maggie Fava as an elite goalkeeper,” Graap said. “She sets a great example for Maggie, and also for [freshman goalie] Ashley Blum.”

Fava, the junior goalie, was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week yesterday. She had a combined 12 saves against Brown and Columbia, and she earned an impressive 6.67 goals against average in the two wins. She also recorded a .545 save percentage over the weekend.

On Friday, Cornell (6-5, 3-2 Ivy) defeated Brown, 11-8, in Ithaca. The Red beat Columbia, 15-5, in New York on Sunday.

“I think Maggie has been improving over her [entire] career,” Graap said. “I think with Maggie, it has been a maturing process. She has been called on to step up — to assert herself as that starter, and as a consistent goalkeeper.”

Fava played especially well against Columbia on Sunday. In the first half of the game, she allowed only two goals on eight shots. After Fava’s dominant first-half performance, Ashley Blum took over in goal for the second half. The freshman recorded five saves.

Fava became Cornell’s starting goalkeeper in March of 2004.

“It came early in her career to call upon her, and she definitely rose to the task,” Graap said. “I think this year, as a junior, she’s just that much more confident in terms of her role on the team. And you see that in her improved numbers.” This year, Fava has earned a 9.62 goals against average, and a .468 save percentage. That’s a solid improvement over last year, when she earned a 10.54 goals against average, and a .455 save percentage.

Two weeks ago, she had ten saves in Cornell’s 9-8 loss against No. 4 Princeton, in three overtimes.

“In that Princeton game, I know we came up on the wrong end of the score, but Maggie played an absolutely fantastic game,” Graap said. “Had she not made the exceptional saves in that game, we wouldn’t have been in a position to go into overtime.”

Archived article by Ted Nyman
Sun Staff Writer