Merely a few days after losing not only a 4-2 contest against Ivy League rival Brown, but also the Ivy League title to Princeton, the field hockey team knows that its season must go on. The team – despite having its championship dreams crushed – still has a lot to play for, as it has three chances left in 2005 to capture a record-breaking 10th win of the season.
The first of these chances occurs tonight, as the Red will hit the road to take on in-state rival Syracuse – a game which should be a true test of Cornell’s mental toughness.
Despite holding a lackluster 9-8 (3-2 Big East) record on the year, the Orange may very well be one of the Red’s toughest opponents this season. Syracuse has consistently played well against some of the best teams in the country, including a 4-3 win against No. 16 Villanova three weeks ago and last weekend’s 3-2 heartbreaking loss to No. 12 UConn.
Furthermore, Syracuse currently rests in a tie for third place in the very competitive Big East Conference, only one game behind Villanova.
The Orange is led on offense by the trio of senior Paige Sullivan and juniors Ashley Frye and Michelle Sola, who lead the team with 24, 21 and 21 points on the season, respectively.
Sola has been particularly hot of late, as she has scored eight goals in Syracuse’s last seven games in addition to earning the Big East Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 9.
Not to be outdone by its stellar attack, the Orange is anchored in goal by talented freshman Heather Hess, who has accumulated a 2.27 goals against average and a .727 save percentage.
Both Sola and Hess were an integral part of Syracuse’s performance against top-ranked UConn, as Sola netted the only two Orange goals and Hess saved seven shots to keep the game close. This all-around team balance is something that, according to Cornell assistant coach Beth Walkenbach ’00, is the strength of Syracuse’s team.
“They really have no weaknesses on either side of the ball. But that is not to say that we are overmatched, I think we will play them very tough,” Walkenbach said.
As has been its pattern all year long, the Red will continue to try to spread the field and make quick vertical passes to create opportunities for its speedy attackers. This was something that Cornell was completely unable to accomplish against Brown, which contributed in no small part to the team’s 4-2 loss.
On the offensive end, Cornell will also need to continue to rely on the finishing skills of freshman Alyssa DePaola. DePaola leads not only her team, but the entire Ivy League in goals (9), goals per game (0.64), points (23) and points per game (1.64).
Turning to defense, the Red will look to maintain consistent pressure on Syracuse attackers in order to create more turnovers and quicker transitions, something it also was unsuccessful in doing against Brown.
However, keeping to its game plan is not the only issue facing Cornell. It will also have to find a way to maintain its positive morale following Princeton’s dramatic clinching of yet another Ivy League title. But, Walkenbach does not view this to be a problem for the team.
“The morale is actually great. We as a team are delighted with our progress and we really have nothing to lose anymore. Princeton has been a dynasty in the Ivy League for over a decade [and] losing to them is not a terrible blow. We will play these last three games to the best of our ability,” Walkenbach said.
Archived article by Lance Williams
Sun Staff Writer