October 25, 2006

Field Hockey Falls to ’Cuse

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Bundled up fans, shivering with their hands stuffed deep in their pockets at Schoellkopf last night were treated to a matchup between Cornell and Syracuse’s field hockey teams that included everything but a Cornell victory.

The 4-3 overtime loss was the eighth in the Red’s last nine contests. The game featured several comebacks, a few blown leads, quick offenses, staunch defenses and three goals in the last six minutes — including field hockey’s version of the buzzer beater — a Cornell goal with 20 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime. It had all the makings of a classic, except that Cornell lost, moving the Red’s record to 5-8 (2-3 Ivy) on the season.

“There is not a player who didn’t play outstanding,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook. “I hate to lose, but we showed a lot of poise and maturity. You could really see the growth today for such a young team.”

When the two teams stepped on to the turf, they seemed to shed the chilly weather, as both took off running. The first half hour of play was like watching a tennis match, with the heads of the crowd turing side-to-side like clockwork as the ball moved from endline to endline. Syracuse attacked with its quick dribbling skills, often motoring past Red defenders. Cornell countered by stuffing the passing lanes, intercepting most of the Orange’s attempts to cross the ball to the middle.

“Our defense was excellent,” Hornibrook said. “We had a game plan and our defense stuck to it to a ‘T.’ It was very disciplined defending. They played well together.”

On offense, the Red brought it up the sidelines, with senior co-captains Sarah Miller and Lindsay Moyer each patrolling a sideline, run ning back and forth incessantly.

“I’m very happy with our midfield play,” Hornibrook said. “[Syracuse] plays a lot through No. 14 [Michelle Sola] in the back field, and I thought we took that away which led to some opportunities for us.”

While Miller and Moyer were getting around the defense deep in Syracuse’s territory off takeaways, their crosses either didn’t come or couldn’t find recipients in the middle. Nonetheless, the defense kept the game scoreless.

The Orange persisted however, taking the ball away from sophomore Katlyn Donoghue at midfield as she tried to turn with the ball. With the defense split wide for the pass, Syracuse forward Meg Ryan had an open lane to the goal, where she sent a well placed shot to the left hand corner past a diving Prescott with five minutes to go in the half.

[img_assist|nid=19178|title=fh|desc=Freshman Natalie Appleton (left) runs to stop a Syracuse player during Cornell’s 4-3 overtime loss last night.|link=popup|align=right|width=99|height=100]
As it would do all night, though, Cornell responded. At the 3:30 mark, Miller’s cross finally found a receiver in the middle, and while the first shot was turned away, sophomore Mandy Malzberg was there to pick up the rebound and put it back in to tie it as the players headed to the locker room.

For the first 15 minutes of the second half, the Red kept in on the offensive end and were rewarded when, on its third penalty corner in the span of two minutes, Moyer sent a shot screeching towards the goal, where Donoghue was waiting in front of Syracuse keeper Heather Hess. She popped the ball up over Hess and into the goal.

“The penalty corner unit executed well,” Hornibrook said. “It’s a game of chances and I was gland to see us take advantage of a lot of ours.”

The match seemed to settle down after that. With the 6 minute mark approaching, it seemed like the Red were going to hold on to the 2-1 victory.

Then the game was grabbed, turned upside down, and shaken for the remainder of play.

“It was a wild finish,” remarked Hornibrook.

After the Orange called a timeout with 9:30 remaining, they brought a revitalized attack onto the field. With just under six minutes left, Ryan, who was all over the field despite playing through what appeared to be leg cramps, flashed Syracuse’s dribbling skills, streaking down the right sideline before earning a penalty corner on her cross. On the ensuing strike, the Orange took the ball in front of the net. Playing a quick give and go, Brittany Shannon recieved a pass and netted the game-tying goal.

“You have to give credit to Syracuse on the penalty corners,” Hornibrook said. “But at the same time, I’ll have to look at the tape and see how we could have improved on defending those. Until I see the tape, I won’t really know specifically what we did wrong.”

Indeed, merely a couple of minutes later, off another penalty corner, Ryan notched her second goal of the evening, cleaning up the rebound after Prescott made a diving stop on the original offering.

Hornibrook quickly called timeout. The Red regrouped was awarded a free stroke in the backfield with just over a minute on the clock. Martinez sent a speeding long ball which found a Red stick at midfield. It was then sent up to sophomore Brenna Gulotta before the ball kicked off a Syracuse defender, giving Cornell one last penalty corner. The penalty corner unit flawlessly executed the play exactly as it had on the second goal, with Moyer receiving it at the back and sending a shot towards the middle that Donoghue popped up over the goalie for a shocking game-tying goal.

As the regulation whistle blew, the Red players came off the field yelling, pumping theirfists, sticks raised above their heads. The Orange huddled in stunned silence while the Cornell huddle was raucous, with smiles and high fives all around. Momentum can be a funny thing, though.

“Overtime is just who capitalizes first,” Hornibrook said. “It’s a game of chances, and we had the first chance in overtime. We just couldn’t capitalize.”

Indeed both teams came out firing in the overtime session. Martinez, aggressively playing up out of her defensive position, stripped the ball at midfield creating a 3-on-2 break that turned into penalty corner.

On the corner, Martinez received the ball in the middle and tried to dribble in, but was muffed by a Syracuse defender. Down at the other end, the Red lost the ball in the backfield after stopping the Orange’s ensuing attack. Michelle Sola took the ball uncontested toward the goal, forcing Prescott to come out. Sola calmly fed Alison Babbitt, who one timed it into the back to the net for the game winner.

After the game, Hornibrook admitted that she has never seen a team play so well and not get any results so consistently as this year’s team has. However, she remained optimistic.

“The enthusiasm I saw was wonderful,” Hornibrook said. “I am very proud of my team. You couldn’t ask for more from them. It’s just too bad we didn’t win.”