Although its season ended sooner than the women’s lacrosse team had planned with a 16-8 loss to Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA national tournament on May 14, the Red still produced a successful campaign that saw the squad claim a share of its first-ever Ivy title, a record number of All-Ivy selections, three All-Americans, and two Coach of the Year honors for head coach Jenny Graap ’86.
Although No. 10 cornell took an early 3-0 lead against No. 7 Notre Dame, the Irish eventually found a way through the Red’s defense, which was without injured All-Americans then-juniors Margaux Viola and Anne Riordan.
“I’m really proud of them for taking the field and just going for it. … You think about a game like that for years,” Graap said. “Our team struggled without the two juniors … [who were] an intergral part of our success all season long.”
Notre Dame went on a 4-0 run prompted by a dominance on draw controls. Following a goal by junior Noelle Dowd, who led the Red with four goals, the Irish reeled off another quartet of tallies to earn an 8-4 advantage at the half. Despite nearly equal shot opportunities — the Irish held a slight 29-26 advantage — the Red could not catch up, and Notre Dame earned the right to advance. The Fighting Irish eventually fell to Dartmouth, 14-8, in the national semifinals, an Ivy compatriot that the Red defeated earlier in the year. Cornell finished the year with a 12-4 (6-1 Ivy) record.
“This year the team was still relatively young,” Graap said. “There’s still a lot left to be done with the 2006 group. Not making it past the first round was enormously disappointing, but just getting a taste of the tournament makes the want [to return].”
Graap and her team had maintained throughout the season that their ultimate goal was a berth in the Final Four in Boston on Memorial Day weekend. And while this goal went unrealized for another year, the Red did achieve unprecedented feats in 2006. In 2002, the program had three athletes named to the All-Ivy first team — a record that was shattered when Viola, Riordan, goalkeeper Maggive Fava ’06, and sophomores Courtney Farrell and Katherine Simmons earned first-team honors this year. Junior Ashleigh Smith also earned all-league recognition when she was named an All-Ivy honorable mention.
Fava was also named co-Player of the Year, just the second time a Cornell player earned this honor and the second time a Red goalkeeper was named to the first team. By the end of the season, she was ranked fifth nationally in goals against average (7.62) and ninth in save percentage (.522). She anchored a defensive unit that was fifth in the nation in scoring defense.
The five All-Ivy first team selections also earned All-Region honors, with four being named to the first team and Simmons earning second-team honors. The four first-team selections also tied a school record.
The accolades continued, as Riordan was named second-team All-American and Fava and Viola were both award third-team All-American spots. Riordan was one of the top defenders in the country, causing 13 turnovers and grabbing 23 ground balls. She also won six draws in 15 games. Viola missed the final three games of the season due to injury, but still contributed 27 goals, good for fourth on the team, and a total of 34 points. She also won 28 draw controls and claimed 26 ground balls while causing seven turnovers.
“I have an enormous amount of pride and respect for all the players. … I think all the players on the team share in [the All-Ivy and All-American] awards,” Graap said. “I feel the same way about any Coach of the Year recognition I’ve received. I share that with my two assistant coaches and our strength coach.”
For her efforts coaching the Red, Graap was named Inside Lacrosse Magazine’s Coach of the Year for the entire country, and earned the IWLCA Northeast Region Coach of the Year award. It was the second time she had earned the honor from the IWLCA, with her first nod coming in 2002.
The six Ivy League wins for the Red in 2006 tied a school record, and the 12 victories overall ranks third all-time for the program when she steered the Red to a Final Four berth.
The final honor for the Red was the an IWLCA Community Awareness Award, which was given to Lyndsay Robinson ’06 for her role in organizing both a dodgeball tournament to raise money for multiple sclerosis research and “Helping Hands,” a group of Cornell students that assists retired Cornell professors and faculty. Robinson was a two-year captain who started more than 40 games during her career with the Red, and was recently hired as an assistant coach with the program.
“She was a very strong candidate for the position,” Graap said. “She brings leaderingship, and the whole package of knowledge of the game and the team.”