September 22, 2005

F. Hockey Keyed by Offense

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The numbers are staggering. Through five games this season, the Cornell field hockey team ranks at or near the top of the Ivy League standings in just about every offensive category. Using a combination of speed, aggressiveness and unselfish play, the Red has shown no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Due to graduation, the Red lost the players responsible for over two-thirds of its offensive production last season and as a result, has had to look to new sources to fill the void. Apparently, its attempts have been successful, as through just five games, the Red boasts a 4.2 goals per game average – tops in the Ivy League. What may be even more impressive is that the team has already matched its goal total of all of last season.

A major part of the team’s turnaround has been the emergence of the freshman class as a viable force. At the onset of the season, one of the keys to success that the team identified was how quickly the freshmen would adjust to the collegiate level. At this point, it seems that the adjustment period is running smoothly, as freshmen alone have accounted for 16 goals and eight assists – a total of forty points. As a basis for comparison, the entire Red squad last season registered 21 goals and 18 assists, for a total of sixty points.

In generating its attack this season, the Red has utilized a total team effort. One generally doesn’t expect the defensive unit to play a critical role in the offensive scheme, but that is exactly how the Red has formulated its gameplan so far. By working the ball out of the backfield and creating fast transitions, the defense has helped set the tempo and push the ball forward to the midfielders. The midfield, by far the most experienced unit on the field, continues the counter attack and feeds the ball to the forwards, who use their athleticism to create advantages up front.

“The backfield has been a critical aspect of the attack and the midfield has done a good job feeding into our forward’s quickness,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook.

To maintain an edge up front and capitalize on its strengths, the Red platoons its forward lines, rotating players on and off the field.

“Particularly against Penn, we were fresh while they wore down,” Hornibrook said. “As a coach, its great to have confidence in both lines. Even though each line has a different style, the players complement each other well.”

This strategy seems to be particularly effective given the speed and athletic ability the players have demonstrated. Furthermore, given the different styles of play of the Red’s forward lines, it makes defending them that much more difficult.

While personnel and strategic changes have contributed to the Red’s offensive success, perhaps the greatest gains have been realized as a result of teamwork and proper execution. This season, the Red has placed an emphasis not on winning or losing individual games, but rather on its performance and on executing to the best of its abilities. The immediate results of this approach have been seen in the team’s effectiveness in capitalizing on penalty corners and on it’s ability to spread around the offense.

“The players are very unselfish with the ball,” Hornibrook said. “It makes us tough to defend because the other team can’t just shut down one of our players.”

Archived article by Jon Hausner
Sun Staff Writer