October 30, 2006

Field Hockey Splits Final Road Matches

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After leaving Ithaca Thursday afternoon, the field hockey team spent a busy weekend on an emotional rollercoaster, bursting out of the gates quickly Friday night on its way to a 4-2 win against Rutgers, before falling, 3-2, to Colgate in a marathon, double-overtime contest yesterday afternoon.

Returning home yesterday evening, the Red found itself at 6-9 (3-3 Ivy) with one game remaining on an up and down season. The weekend was a microcosm of the season as a whole. Just as the team started the season off with a four-game winning streak, the team netted four goals in the first 22 minutes, building what proved to be an insurmountable lead.

“It was nice,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook. “We played some really high pressure defense and caused some turnovers in their end. We took advantage of them too, which was nice.”

The Red’s successful game plan stemmed from identifying ahead of time Rutger’s style of play as a very pass-oriented possession team. In response, Hornibrook positioned her forwards to press the Scarlet Knights in their backfield.

“We saw how they moved the ball, and counter-attacked well off of the turnovers that we created,” Hornibrook said.

The net result was a half which saw the Red put up nine shots and earn five penalty corners. Both Cornell and Rutgers marched out of the locker rooms to find a different style of play in the second half. Rutgers’ passing game started to find more holes, as players began to possess the ball more effectively.

“I thought we started to allow them to receive the ball in front of us more in the second half,” Hornibrook said. “We got away from out game plan a little. It was a case of not winning the ball deep in their end, and playing into their style.”

While the Red weren’t as effectively pressuring the Scarlet Knights in the backfield, the Cornell defense held strong. Despite letting up 12 second period shots and six penalty corners, the lead held behind six second half saves from junior keeper Lizzie Goldblatt, giving her eight on the evening.

“We haven’t played 70 minutes consistenly in a lot of our games this year,” Hornibrook said. “There are a number of factors which contribute to that. As teams make adjustments in the second half, we start to get away from what we planned. We have a young team.”

The Red traveled over to Colgate to take on the Raiders yesterday afternoon in what quickly became a marathon affair where Cornell just couldn’t push that last goal across despite dominating much of the play, much in the same way the team just couldn’t get over the hump during its seven-game losing streak earlier this season despite often dictating the style of play on the field.

Playing through driving winds and swirling snow, the Red battled for over 90 minutes before finally succumbing in the second overtime.

Riding the momentum from Friday night, Cornell filled the back of the net only seven minutes into the affair as sophomore Brenna Gulotta slipped a shot past Colgate keeper Jaque DeMarco to put the Red up, 1-0. Just as the teams were about to head into the locker rooms, the Raiders were able to sneak a goal in just before the final horn.

“We certainly didn’t lack anything defensively,” Hornibrook said. “We carried the play for much of the game, and played very well in the first half.”

Before the teams even settled into the second half, though, Colgate had thrown another goal up on the scoreboard.

“We weren’t possessing the ball as much,” Hornibrook said. “We started playing their style a little. We are more successful with small ball; moving it up bit by bit. Colgate likes to play the ball deep. They’re more of a hitting team, and we got into playing the big ball game.”

Nonetheless, the team came fighting back a few minutes later, with sophomore Belen Martinez darting up out of the backfield to net the game-tying goal. From there on out, the match resembled the way every game of tic-tac-toe ends after the age of seven, with no winner. For the next 54 minutes the game would remain a deadlock.

“The first overtime we carried the play,” Hornibrook said. “We just weren’t able to score. It’s all about chances. You’re going to get your chances, and we did, but we just didn’t finish.”

Finally, in the 93rd minute, Colgate finally put the game away. Sophomore Shannon Prescott had manned the net for the whole game, notching a caree-high 12 saves, while the Red got off 17 shots to the Red Raiders 16. Both teams also forced a high number of penalty corners, with Colgate earning 12 to the Red’s 10.

“Despite all of this, we still had opportunities to win,” Hornibrook said. “We had good pressure on them the whole game.”