Though just at the midway point of its 2006 campaign, the No. 12 women’s lacrosse team’s game at No. 8 Princeton this Saturday represents one of the major turning points of the season.
“It is a huge game for Cornell,” said head coach Jenny Graap ’86. “I’ve personally never beat them, and I think our program is 2-27 against them lifetime. It’s definitely an enormous challenge and we’re excited to play a top-10 team.”
This match-up played a major role in the Red’s season a year ago, as the No. 14 Cornell team rode a three-game winning streak into its meeting against the No. 4 Tigers. However, after a heartbreaking 9-8 double-overtime loss to Princeton, the Red would go on to drop three of its next five contests – ending its shot at a NCAA tournament berth.
This year, however, with the Red (6-1, 2-0 Ivy) and Princeton (3-4, 1-0 Ivy) even more closely matched, Cornell is looking forward to paying back the favor.
“We’re a different team and they’re a different team,” Graap said. “I think last year’s game gives us a little more incentive to get after them. Close is just not good enough.”
Though it has an unimpressive record, all of Princeton’s losses have come against teams ranked No. 6 or better in the nation. In fact, the Tigers came up just short in upset bids at No. 3 Johns Hopkins and No. 4 Georgetown, losing those games by a combined three goals.
In the meantime, Princeton has been nothing short of dominant in its victories, winning those games by an average margin of 7.3 goals. In its most recent outing this past Wednesday, the Tigers blasted Columbia, 16-7, in its Ivy League opener.
Princeton’s offense is led by a trio of prolific goal scorers and Cornell’s defense will not have the luxury of being able to concentrate on just one superstar on the Princeton attack. Junior Kathleen Miller, freshman Kristin Schwab and sophomore Katie Lewis-Lamonica have combined to account for over half of the Tigers’ goals.
“They definitely present multiple threats,” Graap said. “Our defense has got to play together and play well.”
Miller is the most dangerous of the three, as she is not only a threat as a scorer (13 goals), but is also the team’s leading playmaker with nine assists.
If its recent play is any indicator, however, the Cornell defense appears to be more than up for the challenge. During the Red’s current five-game winning streak, opponents have managed just 4.2 goals per game.
Senior goalie Maggie Fava has played a major role in the team’s recent defensive revival. The net-minder has allowed just 6.57 goals per game and a .531 save percentage, both significant improvements over the 9.85 goals per game and .455 save percentage that she posted a year ago.
Cornell has thrived on the offensive end as well. Currently, the Red is averaging 13.9 goals per game, well ahead of the 10.1 mark it posted in that category during its 2005 campaign.
Junior Margaux Viola’s production through the first half of the season has been one of the major catalysts for the Red attack. Named to the watch list for the Tewaaraton Trophy – the award given to the nation’s top player – she leads the team in goals with 21 on the season.
“We are really proud of her,” Graap said. “It is a tremendous honor. We’re all really supportive of her – it is definitely big stuff.”
Sophomore Courtney Farrell also recently earned honors for her offensive prowess. A second-team All-Ivy selection a year ago, she received the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week award after notching eight points in Cornell wins over Vanderbilt and No. 17 Penn a week ago.
Farrell’s classmates Katherine Simmons and Noelle Dowd have also contributed in major ways. Simmons, the team’s leading goal scorer from a year ago, has continued to be a major producer in tallying 15 goals while leading the team with 42 shots. Meanwhile, Dowd has posted 17 total points and is second on the team with 6 assists.
“I think we’re ready for the game,” Graap said. “It’s coming at a good time. We’re ready to turn the tide against Princeton.”