With three wins over spring break – two against nationally ranked opponents – the women’s lacrosse team has raced out to a 6-1 record and a ranking of No. 13 in the national polls. The hot start reflects the teamwork and dedication of a team committed to returning to the NCAA tournament. However in recent years, early season success has not necessarily translated into a post-season berth for the Red. Since 1999, the team has begun the season with a record of 5-0 or better five other times, while making the tournament just twice – in 2001 and 2002.
“We are playing consistently,” said head coach Jenny Graap ’86, who was named US Lacrosse National Coach of the Week. “Defensively, we are very sharp and we have multiple threats on the offensive end with lots of players putting up numbers.”
While it may be premature to discuss the postseason when Cornell is only at its halfway point of the regular season, the team is hoping that the way it has played, rather than its record, is the more telling indicator of future success. With two Ivy League games – and two Ivy League wins – the Red is entering the heart of its schedule, which will determine if the team wins the conference and thereby secures an automatic NCAA tournament bid. For the team to be successful, it will need to maintain the momentum it has built up to this point in the season.
Cornell is currently ranked among the top-20 nationally in many statistical categories, though perhaps most indicative of its success is its scoring margin, which stands at +7.29. This margin reflects a high-octane offense that ranks No. 6 in the country – averaging 13.86 goals per game – and a stingy defense which ranks No. 3 – allowing on average just 6.57 goals per game.
“The fact that we have that cushion could be attributed to our high powered, fast paced offense, our stingy defense, and our real solid goalkeeper in net,” Graap said.
A key to the Red’s success this season has been its balanced scoring and offensive attack. Thirteen different players have scored at least one goal so far, while six of those players have already registered double-digit point totals.
Production from multiple sources has been critical for the Red in creating a balanced scoring attack that prevents opposing defenses from honing in on and shutting down one or two players.
“Having defenses on their toes because they aren’t sure which of the seven attackers will take it to the net is a tremendous weapon for us,” Graap said.
After allowing a combined twenty-five goals in the first two games of the season, Cornell has buckled down over the last five, giving up just twenty-one goals during that span. Juniors Anne Riordan and Ashleigh Smith have each been named Ivy League Defensive Players of the Week for their efforts. Senior goalkeeper Maggie Fava currently ranks 13th in the country with a .531 save percentage and ranks fourth with a 6.57 goals against average.
Cornell’s next opportunity to carry its strong team play and its next big test in its quest for an Ivy League title comes this weekend as it travels to face No. 8 Princeton, a match which may turn out to be the team’s biggest test of the Ivy League season.