October 7, 2005

Field Hockey Looks To Stay in Title Hunt

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While the field hockey team no longer has the advantage of being unbeaten in the Ivy League or standing at the top of conference rankings after a loss to first-place Princeton last weekend, the Red has not lost its drive for a championship. This weekend, Cornell (5-4, 3-1 Ivy) will look to relight its drive to the top with a game against conference foe Harvard (5-5, 1-1 Ivy) on Sunday and a non-league game against Bucknell (3-7, 0-1 Patriot League) on Tuesday.

After back-to-back one-goal losses against Princeton and West Chester on the road last weekend, the Red is looking forward to wielding the home-field advantage this weekend.

“I think [being at home is] going to be tremendous,” said assistant coach Beth Walkenbach. “We won’t have the inconsistencies that come with travelling, those little glitches in the schedule that can throw even the most composed team off a little. Being at home, on campus, will provide a level of comfort.”

The Red is focusing primarily on Harvard this weekend, looking for the best way to launch an attack that will position Cornell securely ahead of the second-place Crimson and give them a chance to overtake the Tigers down the road. Harvard is in the midst of a four-game losing skid – however, two of these losses have come against nationally-ranked opponents. On Wednesday, No. 11 Northeastern defeated the Crimson, 3-2, and Harvard dropped a 4-0 loss to No. 4 Duke on Oct. 2.

“We expect a really balanced team,” Walkenbach said. “[Harvard is] playing some really difficult teams. They’re not coming up with wins, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean they deserve more respect than they’ll earn from us.”

Jen McDavitt leads the offense for the Crimson with three goals and three assists so far this season. Beverlie Ting, Jane Sackovich, and Devon Shapiro provide supporting power up front, with Ting adding three goals of her own. Goaltender Kelly Knoche has anchored the Harvard defense this season, notching 55 saves and a .821 save percentage.

As league play progresses and the standings solidify, the Red is looking to make a name for itself as one of the best teams in the league. However, Walkenbach said that the team is feeling very little pressure heading into this weekend.

“The more pressure we exert on our team to perform, the less well we seem to be able to [play],” she said. “The pressure will come from within … we’re focused on doing what we do well and executing our game plan. We want to be proud of how we played when the game is done.”

Walkenbach said that the team’s game plan includes getting on the scoreboard early and maintaining pressure on both ends of the field from the first whistle onward.

“Every time we play, we learn something new about the team,” she said. “I think we’ve learned now that when we start a game, we need to come out hard and capitalize.”

In terms of Bucknell, Walkenbach said that Cornell has had a “league-first” mentality while preparing for the upcoming challenges. She noted that while the Red approaches every game gunning for victory, the main focus of the team’s energy is securing an Ivy win in order to keep title hopes alive.

Bucknell also boasts nationally-ranked opponents on its schedule, but wins have been hard to come by for the Bison recently. The Bison’s last victory was a close, 3-2, win over Georgetown on Sept. 17. Most recently, Bucknell fell to No. 4 American on Oct. 1 by a 3-1 margin. Steff Graf had the lone goal for the Bison in this game, and earned Patriot League Player of the Week honors for her effort.

Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor