Bill Clinton was in office. September 11 meant nothing to the American public, and the Red Sox were still deeply cursed. Yes, 1999 wasn’t that long ago, but it was the last time the Cornell women’s field hockey team started its season with back-to-back victories. After a 3-1 victory over Lehigh Friday night, the Red came out Sunday and took down Lafayette, 2-0.
“It’s just a really good feeling to have a weekend like that,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook.
While it was the team’s third straight season opening victory against the Mountain Hawks, the victory over the Leopards was the first since 2001, and only the fourth in the last 16 years. The Red got the ball rolling Friday night with an offensively orientated game plan.
“I thought our forwards got some good scoring opportunities from deep positions,” Hornibrook said.
Specifically, Hornibrook pointed out senior Sarah Miller and sophomore Brenna Gulotta, who each had goals in the game, with Gulotta adding an assist.
“Sarah scored her first college goal and it was a key one,” she said. “It was a situation where we needed a goal coming out of the timeout. We were under pressure, and we came out and scored in the first three minutes. The first goal was created by Brenna’s speed. Her abilities to get around the corner and just create problems behind their defense was always good for us.”
The offense was not picture perfect, according to Hornibrook, as shown by the fact that the Red received only three penalty corners.
“Really we could have had other opportunities,” she said. “We sort of dribbled ourselves out of good scoring position a couple of times.”
On the other end, Lehigh, trailing most of the game, had the pressure up on offense, getting off 15 shots to the Red’s 11 and creating 10 penalty corners.
“Any team when you’re down you have to flood the circle and you have to really offensively go crazy and put it all out there,” said junior goalkeeper Lizzie Goldblatt. “Lehigh definitely put it all out there and grabbed a lot of corners, and a goal. But what can you do? It was a pretty goal. When they score like that you can’t do anything. No big deal.”
Hornibrook explained that it was the ball control and first-game jitters of a young team that led to a lack of composure.
“I just think that as a whole our tackling let us down, and I think our first touch let us down,” Hornibrook said. “We received the ball but our receptions weren’t clean and it would bounce back and we’d be under pressure a lot. We started the game strong but then started doing some things that we rarely do — our tackling kind of broke down.”
Just two days later, though, the team came out against Lafayette as poised as they had been nervous on Friday, grinding out a 2-0 victory. The loss avenged Cornell’s only loss in its first six games last year.
“Sunday was like a chess game,” Hornibrook said. “Lehigh plays much less structured than Lafayette, which is very disciplined. We got to break down some video of them from last year, and they played very similar to that style.”
The defense seemingly pulled a Jekyll and Hyde from Friday night, not even allowing a shot in the first half, and only six overall — including one corner — after giving up 15 shots and 10 corners against Lehigh.
“We regrouped and realized we were playing individual, not group, defense,” Hornibrook said. “We changed that Sunday.”
While the offense was not as free-flowing Sunday, it did create some momentum-changing moments. With the second half beginning, and Lafayette finally finding its offensive pressure, Gulotta netted an insurance goal in the 40th minute to mute Lafayette’s new-found pressure. The goal was assisted by sophomore Katlyn Donghue, who also scored the team’s first goal on a deflection.
“Brenna’s goal was very timely, and Katlyn just did a really good job all game,” Hornibrook said.
Sophomore goalkeeper Shannon Prescott also saw some second-half action, notching four saves, displaying the depth and versatility the Red presents at the goalie position.
“Any game when you can get [Prescott and Goldblatt] in, you should,” Hornibrook said. “Shannon needs opportunities to play, which I think gives up a solid two goalie rotation, possibly the best in our conference.”