In soccer, stout defense and midfield ball control are often a recipe for success. Last night the women’s soccer team had both in its victory against Albany — it didn’t hurt that it also scored five goals in a 5-0 rout of the Great Danes (5-13-1). The performance, which gave the Red its second straight win at home, could only be described as dominant.
Senior Alison McKeown was the star of the night for the Red (3-11-1, 1-4 Ivy), scoring her first career hat trick while consistently attacking the Albany defense in Cornell’s final non-league contest of the season.
“As a team, it is so much fun to score goals,” she said. “Once you get that first one you are able to have the confidence to go get more.”
The scoring started in the 14th minute when senior Caitlin Oliver collected a ball near the top of the goal box and knocked it past Albany keeper Maria Liguori. Oliver would exit the game soon after with apparent pain in her shoulder. Interim head coach Gretchen Zigante noted that the injury is likely minor.
[img_assist|nid=19212|title=Kick and finish|desc=Junior midfielder Molly Easterlin (20) protects the ball from Penn’s Jess Rothenheber (9) in the Red’s 1-0 loss to the Quakers on Sept. 30.|link=popup|align=left|width=100|height=69]
The second goal for the Red came when senior Jessica Snyder carried the ball through some empty space in the middle of the field and dished it off to freshman Eva Dixon, who did well to stay onsides, for the goal. Snyder received the assist on both of the first half goals.
In the second half, Albany placed Ashley Nuessle in goal in hopes of thwarting the Cornell attack — McKeown, however, made her half a nightmare from the very start. In the 54th minute senior Jessica Schindler received the ball off a free kick and lobbed a ball into the box looking for an open teammate. That teammate was McKeown, who rose above the Dane defense and headed a floater toward the goal. Nuessle retreated, but the ball carried over her head and landed in the back of the net.
“I’ve wanted to score with my head all season,” McKeown said. “I have had some chances earlier in the season, and I had some chances in the first half, so it was amazing to finally get one. I was watching closely as the ball sailed over the goalie.”
Just ten minutes later, it looked as though Dixon would add another tally to the scoresheet when she came free on a breakaway. Instead, Nuessle was able to attack Dixon and block the initial chance. In a classic example of being in the right place at the right time, the deflected ball went right to McKeown, and she drilled it into the empty net.
For the final leg of her hat trick, McKeown would again reap the benefits of a rebound when she collected her own miss and tapped the ball into the net in the 72nd minute.
The goal outburst was kind of surprise for McKeown, who has been known more for her passing this season. Her three goals last night were more than she scored in all of the other games combined.
“[Alison] has been more of an assist player for us this season,” interim head coach Gretchen Zigante said. “She is one of the most unselfish players we have. She has been working so hard and was very deserving of the goals she scored tonight.”
Of the Red’s 20 total shots on the night — compared to Albany’s four — McKeown accounted for nine of them.
It was a total team performance for Cornell and the squad seemed in control from the opening whistle. Using a combination of long through balls into space and close-controlled passing, the Red kept the Danes on their heels and produced numerous chances throughout the night.
On the other end, the few chances that Albany had came from outside the eighteen as the tight shell of Cornell defense turned away all potential opportunities.
“In a season where we haven’t had a lot of wins, scoring goals has been a struggle,” Zigante said. “It was great to play well, which we have done all season, and finally get a victory.”