The field hockey team will round out its 2005 season this weekend when it travels to Hanover, N.H., to take on Ivy League rival Dartmouth (9-9, 4-2 Ivy).
Although perennial powerhouse Harvard eliminated the Red (10-6, 4-2 Ivy) from contention for the Ivy League title two weeks ago, this game still carries a great deal of importance for the team.
First and foremost, the game will represent the last time senior co-captains Blair Corcoran and Natalie Serle, and classmate Ellen Davies step out onto a field donning a Cornell uniform. Under the tutelage of head coach Donna Hornibrook, these seniors have witnessed Cornell field hockey rise from the basement of the Ivy League to become serious contenders in just two years.
Throughout their careers, the seniors have yet to see Cornell either finish with a winning record or place better than fourth in Ivy League play. This season however – largely due to the trio’s leadership – the team is assured of accomplishing both of these feats regardless of the outcome of its last game.
“All three of these girls are simply outstanding leaders. Although they also have a tremendous amount of talent, we will miss the character they bring to the team the most. I really cannot say enough about how much they have helped the team come together this year,” Hornibrook said.
Beyond wishing its seniors farewell, the Red will also be playing for second place in the Ivy League standings, something it has not achieved since 1997.
Heading into the weekend, Cornell, Dartmouth and Brown all share that spot with identical 4-2 records.
As a result, the winner of Sunday’s game will not only be assured of at least a tie for second place in the Ivy League, but will also occupy the spot alone if Brown loses its game against Yale.
Although finishing second is often not viewed as a positive, Hornibrook sees the opportunity as a means of displaying just how far her team has come this year.
“Second place means more to us all than a number. It shows the really strong improvement that this squad has shown throughout the past couple of years. It is something we would be very proud of,” Hornibrook said.
In order for the Red to achieve this goal, however, it will need to make it past a very tough Dartmouth team.
The Green boasts an overall record of 9-9, while going 4-2 in Ivy League play. It comes into this weekend’s contest after winning three of its last four games, including two consecutive one-goal victories against Ivy League opponents Harvard and Columbia. In its last contest, however, Dartmouth was trounced by a tough Syracuse team, 5-1.
In an effort to maintain consistent offensive pressure, the Green has pushed its 3-3-3-1 set forward throughout the season. In this way, it often catches defenses completely off guard and provides its talented offensive players great opportunities to finish.
The most prominent of these offensive stars is sophomore Whitney Waugh, who currently leads the team in goals (7) and points (18). Waugh has been particularly hot of late, as she has amassed 17 points in her team’s last eight games, including the Green’s lone goal against Syracuse.
However this strategy also has its downfalls, as it often leaves the defense, and senior goalkeepr Lauren Balukjian, completely exposed. Despite this fact, Balukjian has compiled a goals against average of 1.75 to go along with a .750 save percentage.
Hornibrook feels that key to the game for the Red will be to exploit this overly aggressive style by maintaining a tight defensive unit and waiting for Dartmouth players to be caught out of position.
“They are a gambling team, so we will need to do the job defensively and then find opportunities to counterattack when their midfielders are too far forward,” Hornibrook said.
As one of the team’s strengths is its transition game – led by speedy freshman attacker Alyssa DePaola – it should have no problem executing its gameplan. DePaola has started off her collegiate career by compiling a team-leading nine goals as well as 23 points.
“I am very proud of the way we have stuck together as team this year. Hopefully we will be able to end this great season on a winning note,” Hornibrook said.
Archived article by Lance Williams
Sun Staff Writer