With a dominant defensive effort, the No. 11 women’s lacrosse team (9-2, 4-1 Ivy) moved one step closer to securing an NCAA tournament berth as it comfortably defeated No. 13 Syracuse (9-6, 2-2 Big East) 9-4 at Schoellkopf Field last night.
“I am really, really proud of all our players. Our defense especially deserves a lot of praise,” head coach Jenny Graap ’86 said. “This was a huge win against a top team.”
Holding the Orange to more than eight goals below its season average, the Red used a smothering defense and some strong play in goal from senior Maggie Fava to cruise to the victory. Overall, Cornell’s defense is now No. 2 in the nation, allowing just 6.91 goals per game.
“We played Cornell defense tonight,” Fava said. “We were aggressive and it was a solid team effort. Everyone played great and it feels really good to earn this win as a team.”
Shutting down Syracuse’s primary offensive weapons, junior Gaddy Fortune and freshman Kathryn Rowan, proved to be one of the keys to Cornell’s strong defensive showing. The two players, who both entered the contest having scored 41 goals on the season, combined for just two scores, both on free-position shots by Fortune.
“We did a great job with them,” Graap said. “We kept them both from scoring on direct takes which was a great accomplishment for us.”
Two quick unassisted goals from sophomores Courtney Farrell and Katherine Simmons spotted the Red an early lead. After a 13-minute scoreless span, the two teams traded goals for the rest of the half as the Red took a 5-3 lead into halftime.
Cornell’s defense took over in the second half, holding the Orange scoreless over a 25:28 span to help put the game away. Fava keyed the defensive stand by making several great saves to keep Syracuse off the board.
“We kept our composure in the second half,” Graap said. “[Fava] did a great job in goal.”
Meanwhile, as the Orange was held in check, a patient Cornell attack kept the action near the Syracuse goal for much of the half. The Red eventually tacked on two more goals from senior captain Allison Schindler and Simmons to extend its lead to 7-3.
“It was certainly to our advantage to eat time and take well-timed shots on offense,” Graap said. “We were able to put a couple in the net to seal the victory.”
Though Syracuse got one more goal off a free-position shot with less than seven minutes to play, Cornell prevented any serious comeback attempts, controlling play and notching two more goals of its own in the game’s last few minutes.
Simmons led the Red in scoring with three goals, running her season total to 24. Sophomores Noelle Dowd and Courtney Farrell also had multi-point games for Cornell. Farrell now leads the squad with 25 goals and 40 total points on the season.
Senior captain Allison Schindler and juniors Alison McKeown and Lindsey Moore scored a goal apiece to round out the Red’s scoring.
The victory, Cornell’s third against a top-20 opponent this season, evened the all-time series against Syracuse at 5-5. More importantly, it boosted the Red’s shot at an NCAA tournament berth. With the win, the Red moved up to the No. 9 spot in laxpower.com’s simulation of the NCAA selection committee’s tournament criteria.
“It was a huge win for us,” Schindler said. “It’s a great feeling to beat a top team in our region that beat us in the dome last year. It’s a matter of pride and respect.”
Archived article by Scott Reich
Sun Staff Writer