Under a typically gray Ithaca sky last Saturday, the women’s field hockey team did something that is becoming typical for the Red this season — win. The team dropped its first game of season, however, in yesterday’s contest.
Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Penn (2-4, 1-1 Ivy) was the Red’s fourth straight win (4-0, 2-0 Ivy), while Sunday afternoon’s 2-0 loss to Vermont (4-3) dropped the team to 4-1 overall.
Until Saturday, no Cornell team in program history had ever started a season with four straight wins. Penn came out aggressive and more controlled with the ball than Cornell, but the Red responded with more long balls out of the backfield and solid team defense.
“It wasn’t a pretty game,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook. “It was really a defensive, physical battle. They started off strong and defended in a way so that there was not a lot of space. Our long balls reflected how they were playing us. I would like to set the tone, but the way they set up it was tough not to play any other way. They’ve very athletic and we played them well.”
The long balls out of the backfield led to some chances down the sidelines for the Red’s offense. In the 16th minute, the team brought the ball down the left side, crossing it into the middle.
[img_assist|nid=18357|title=field hockey|desc=The field hockey team beat Penn and lost to Vermont.|link=none|align=left|width=68|height=100]
Senior attacker Sarah Miller, amidst a scrum of players, sent in a shot that sophomore attacker Abbi Horn redirected for the Red’s first goal. The tally brought the Quakers to life, however, forcing several penalty corners. Cornell responded with tough defense, including some key saves from junior goalie Lizzie Goldblatt on the penalties.
“It really was a game of momentum,” Hornibrook said. “They really put the pressure on at the end of the first half. But our midfield battled and our backs played tough. Lizzie was outstanding in goal. They had several opportunities to really swing the momentum in their favor and tie the game.”
Instead, the Red swung the momentum in its favor, scoring a goal just before the end of half, this time bringing it down the right side. Miller sent a cross into the crease where sophomore back Helena Haas netted the Red’s second goal in the 31st minute.
“It was a very physical game,” said sophomore attacker Brenna Gulotta. “Whoever wanted it more was going to win.”
“I was really pleased that we went down and scored like that,” Hornibrook said. “I would have like to have taken more shots, though. I feel like we’re waiting for the perfect setup sometimes. We need to establish that not every shot needs to be perfect.”
Yesterday, there was no rest for the weary, as the Red trotted out its team against Vermont. From the opening, both teams were flying up and down the field, yet neither side was able to net a goal despite the Red getting off eight first-half shots and Vermont hitting five. In the second half, Cornell seemed to tire, as Vermont took the lead in shots and chances on offense.
“Towards the end of the game, our legs were tired,” Gulotta said. “It really was going to come down to who scored first.”
Unfortunately for the Red, it was the Catamounts, who finally put one in the back of the net in the 66th minute, and then again in the 68th minute off a penalty corner, securing the 2-0 victory.
“We prepared intensely for Penn this week,” Hornibrook said. “It was not ideal to play two games in a row like that. Usually, we have at least one practice in between games to break down film. I felt we really gave them what we could, and that we handled ourselves well, however. This was night and day from when we played them last year, when we lost badly, and I was very pleased with our effort.”
One of the bright spots for the Red was sophomore goalie Shannon Prescott, who made her first start of the season, gathering nine saves, including six in the second half to keep the score knotted at zero. Prescott kept the Red in the game while the team tried to capitalize on opportunities to win at the start of the second half. Coming out of the locker room, Cornell got several penalty corners right off the bat, but could not convert.
“It was just one of those days,” Hornibrook said. “We were just a little out of synch and couldn’t connect. I don’t really know why. After that, we started to play into their hands, because we kept trying to play it up their strong side. I would like to be more proactive going against the other team’s strength. Overall, though, I can’t criticize this team in any way for its performance this weekend.”