It is more than likely that the 2006 women’s lacrosse team will go down as one of the most successful squads in the Cornell program’s existence. Having earned a share of its first-ever Ivy League title and currently ranked as the top scoring defense in the nation, the Red has earned more than its share of accolades.
However, if No. 10 Cornell (11-3, 6-1 Ivy) cannot pull off one more victory at Rutgers (7-8) this Saturday in its season finale, there is a good chance its dream season will not include a trip to the NCAA tournament.
“The game against Rutgers is huge,” said head coach Jenny Graap ’86. “It is a must-win, and, even then, nothing is guaranteed.”
Although the Red tied Princeton for the regular season Ivy title, the Tigers earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament via their 10-6 win over Cornell on April 1. Nevertheless, eight at-large berths are still up for grabs.
Currently ranked among the top-10 in the IWLCA poll, computer poll, RPI and losses – four of the factors that the NCAA selection committee uses to determine at-large bids – the Red appear to be in decent position to pick up one of those spots. In fact, according to laxpower.com’s simulation of the NCAA selection criteria, the Red are sixth in line to receive a bid.
Cornell’s chances at picking up one those berths, though, is still far from certain. This fact is further stressed by the Red’s weak strength of schedule and lack of quality wins. Also, since the selection committee is known to give significant weight to a team’s play down the stretch, last weekend’s 5-4 loss to No.16 Stanford looms as a major obstacle in the Red’s quest.
“We certainly dug ourselves in a hole,” Graap said. “We’re now going to have hold and hope for things to go our way. It was a bad loss for us considering we have to compete for the at-large bid.”
Meanwhile, beyond the pressure on the game and having to bounce back from the loss to the Cardinals, the Red may also be forced to play without junior captain Margaux Viola. A candidate for the national player of the year award and the third-leading scorer on the team, Viola injured her knee in a 17-8 win over Harvard a week ago.
Even with this adversity, however, Graap expects her team to be ready to go.
“We need to get back to basics and get back to playing aggressive Cornell lacrosse,” she said. “We were thinking too much against Stanford and we have a lot of distractions. We need to stay in the moment – all we have is one game and we’ve got to win it.”
The Red’s trio of talented sophomores – Courtney Farrell, Katherine Simmons and Noelle Dowd – has been key to the Cornell attack. Combined, the three players have accounted for 82 goals and 133 points on the season.
Senior captain Alison Schindler, who is just one assist short of tying the Cornell career record in that category at 69, should also be a big contributor on offense.
At the other end of the field, senior goalie Maggie Fava and the rest of the defense have been sharp over the past few games. Fava had a career day against Stanford with 14 saves, and is currently ranked fifth in the country in save percentage at .564.
The defense will likely have to put together another strong performance in order stop Rutgers All-American candidate Katie Batiuk. The junior has tallied 37 goals and 59 points this season.
Archived article by Scott Reich
Sun Staff Writer