When the Cornell women’s soccer team opens its season this weekend, the Red will do so with a new coach, nine new players and a new attitude.
“We’re all really excited, I think this is going to be a really great season. I think we’re going to surprise a few teams this season. Preseason went really well, and the team is playing awesome,” said senior midfielder Whitney Hughes.
Cornell travels to Easton, Penn., to take on Lafayette tomorrow on Mike Bourger ’44 Field at Oaks Stadium. This is also the season opener for the Leopards, who lost, 4-0, to Cornell last year in Ithaca as the Red opened the season on a six-game win streak. The Red finished last year with a 7-7-1 (1-5-1 Ivy) record, and will look to start off this campaign on the right foot. Lafayette is coming off a disappointing season in which it finished 2-11-4 (0-6-1 Patriot). Junior Caroline Tuttle will lead the way for the Leopards. Tuttle paced the squad with five goals last year.
The Red comes into this season with an intriguing mix of youth and experience. Nine freshmen will put on the Cornell uniform for the first time this weekend, and several of them may even play significant roles.
Gretchen Zigante, a former assistant coach and now the interim head coach, is entering her fifth year at Cornell. She was a keeper for North Carolina in 1986, when the Tar Heels won the NCAA championship. Zigante also played for the U.S. national team from 1986 to 1990. The team is excited about their new head coach, and she has the full confidence of her team heading into the opening match.
“She was an incredible assistant, and she has done a great job of stepping up. The team has been transformed, and we have a new system of play,” Hughes said, “We are playing a much more tactical system. It is very unique, and very hard to defend against.”
Hughes noted that last year the Red attack was often predictable and easily foiled by opponents. Senior Caitlin Oliver, the top returning scorer for Cornell, will lead the Red attack. In the middle, the Red will rely on senior Jessica Snyder. Snyder will be a big part in the Red attack, both as a playmaker and a goal-scorer herself. However, the real strength for this squad is its defense. Senior Mira MacLennan and junior Leslie Campbell, the team’s co-captains, anchor a strong backside. Campbell, a second team All-Ivy defender last year, will be counted on in a big way.
The Red will be back in action next Wednesday when St. Bonaventure rolls into town.