As the women’s lacrosse team (9-2, 4-1 Ivy) prepares to bid farewell to its four seniors in the team’s home finale against Yale (9-6, 3-3 Ivy) on Saturday, the No. 11 Cornell squad knows that there is only one proper way to say goodbye to its teammates.
“We want nothing more than to beat Yale for them,” said head coach Jenny Graap ’86. “The four women that we are going to honor have never beaten Yale. It brings a huge significance to their senior day. A win against Yale would be very meaningful.”
A victory for the Red will not come easy though. Led by the leading scorer in the Ivy League, sophomore Laurent Taylor, the Bulldogs have more than enough firepower to pull of an upset over a top-20 team. In fact, it has accomplished that feat once this season with a 6-5 win over No. 14 Dartmouth.
“They are one of our strongest Ivy competitors,” said junior captain Margaux Viola. “They are very aggressive and very fast.”
Taylor, a first team All-Ivy selection a year ago, has already posted 45 points in Yale’s 15 games. Sophomore Kat Peetz and junior Lara Melniker also have made huge contributions for the Bulldogs’s with 32 and 25 points, respectively.
If recent play is any indicator, however, the Cornell defense appears to be more than up to the challenge. The Red has currently the No. 2 scoring defense in the nation, allowing opponents just 6.91 goals per game on average.
“Teamwork is the key,” Graap said. “We have a lot of leadership and talent in the backfield.”
The turning point for the Red’s defense came early in the season after allowing 17 goals at Notre Dame. Disappointed in their effort, the Cornell defenders came together to refocus on what they needed to get done on the field.
“We had a defensive dinner,” Viola said. “We spent the entire meal talking about defense and what we wanted Cornell defense to stand for. It really helped us come together as a unit. … Now, when one person moves, the entire unit shifts with her. We are backing each other up.”
Offensively, the Red has continued to receive production from a number of different weapons. Sophomore Courtney Farrell currently paces the team with 40 points and 25 goals. Meanwhile, Viola and sophomore Katherine Simmons have also been key contributors with 24 goals apiece.
All three players had points in the Red’s 9-4 victory over Syracuse this past Wednesday. The victory marked Cornell’s 12th consecutive win in front of a home crowd – a streak the Red hope to extend this weekend.
“We take a lot of pride playing on home turf,” Viola said. “We have a new warm-up routine and everybody looks forward to getting out there.”
Besides honoring seniors Fava, Allison Schindler, Lyndsay Robinson, and Rachel Spoonhower, the game takes on an even greater significance for Cornell as the team enters the stretch run of its season. A win over Yale would be a huge help in the Red’s search for an NCAA tournament berth and would also keep the team’s hopes alive to earn a share of the Ivy League title.