Sunday afternoon, the field hockey team finally busted out after a season where it felt like it was stuck in stop and go traffic. With a second place finish and a winning record in the Ivy League on the line — not to mention Senior Day looming on everyone’s mind — the Red scored the first five goals of the afternoon against Dartmouth in coasting to a 5-2 victory.
The win gave the Red a 7-9 overall record (4-3 Ivy). It was a record that resulted from many trials and tribulations throughout the year, including a four-game winning streak to start the season, followed by seven straight frustrating losses, then a sudden offensive resurgence as the season wound down. The victory over Dartmouth, the first since 1997, marked a beginning as much as an end for Cornell.
“I’m very pleased with how we ended things,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook. “We had a lot of heartbreakers this year, and those are tough, but there was not a game we weren’t in. And to finish like this, it’s a good confidence booster. We can use this as a stepping stone for sure.”
It was the first time the field hockey team finished above .500 in the Ivy League two years in a row.
[img_assist|nid=19635|title=One and one|desc=Sophomore Alyssa DePaola (left) had a goal and an assist in Cornell’s 5-2 win over Dartmouth yesterday on Schoellkopf Field.|link=popup|align=left|width=91|height=100]
“You’re never happy with second, but to end the season well was just an incredible feat after what we went through,” agreed senior co-captain Lindsay Moyer. “Last year we took a baby step and this year we took another step. I’ll take second — the way we were going you never thought we would end up second. We definitely deserved this.”
The Red earned its due through intense preparation the week leading up to the Dartmouth contest. The team set its zone up to take out some of the Green’s more effective play makers, and then counterattack, pushing the ball a little more than normal.
“Our zone played as a unit,” Moyer said. “We had a lot more attack plays in the game plan today, and we just wanted to set the tone first and make sure it was our game.”
Indeed, just over 15 minutes into the affair, the Cornell zone clogged the passing lanes, intercepting a pass attempt and quickly countered right back down the middle where sophomore Abbi Horn slipped a pass off to classmate Helena Haas who one-timed it into the back of the net. Even with a slim 1-0 lead, emotionally the Red appeared incredibly loose on the field, something which translated into its play, fluidly weaving up and down the field on both sides and through the middle.
“We said it’s our last game, let’s just go out and play as a unit and have a great time,” Moyer said.
Yet, despite not possessing the ball that often, Dartmouth manufactured its share of chances in the first half. Just over 20 minutes in, the Red defense was tested by three consecutive penalty corners.
“We knew going in that their penalty corner unit was dangerous,” said Hornibrook. “With that drag off the corner it’s hard to track the ball because it moves so fast.”
Junior netminder Lizzie Goldblatt was up to the challenge, however, as she rebuffed each shot attempt, including a rare stick save on a diving attempt. Moyer also came up big in the series, clearing a dangerous ball out of the scrum on one occasion.
The free-flowing atmosphere continued right through halftime and into the second half. However, this time, the Red found more results, filling the net four times in the first 15 minutes of play. With the team making run after run, it seemed like just a matter of time until a cross eventually found a stick and the back of the net, which happened just under 10 minutes in when Moyer crossed the ball to sophomore Alyssa DePaolo, whose shot was deflected before sophomore Brenna Gulotta picked up the rebound and netted the goal. About 90 seconds later, off a penalty corner, sophomore Belen Martinez sent a shot screeching towards the goal. Dartmouth keeper Ashley Heist extended on a dive to make the save but the ball trickled under her outstretched hand enough for DePaola to finish the job.
“It was nice to see Alyssa back after missing a third of the season,” Hornibrook said. “She was our leading scorer last year, and now it was good to see her as part of the good balance we had on offense.”
Hornibrook’s remarks were referencing the fact that the Red boasted a different scorer on each goal Sunday. It was a balance and cohesion, she said, that came from individual effort.
“On offense we definitely were looking to take shots,” she said. “We had good passing and good individual effort.”
“Everyone did their job and that made us mesh well,” Moyer agreed.
“The ball just flowed well,” Haas added. “Everyone’s heart was just really in it.”
History repeated itself on the last two Cornell goals, with the first coming off a cross and the second coming off a penalty corner. The first found the back of the net via a sharp pass to sophomore Katlyn Donoghue who held the ball, back to the goal, just long enough before slipping it to Horn near the right post. She passed it on to junior Lizzie Auer, who snuck the shot in near post for the 4-0 lead. And in a fitting end to the scoring, Moyer scored her first goal of the season off a penalty corner, netting a rocket shot from the top of the crease.
“It felt amazing,” she said. “There are no other words to describe it.”
From there on out the game felt like a foregone conclusion. A late offensive push from Dartmouth, resulting in two goals, was not enough. A happy but emotional Red team gathered to lead a cheer ending in “We are Cornell!” There were pats on the shoulders and hugs all around for both Moyer and senior co-captain Sarah Miller, and as the two left the team and the field, their parents were there to embrace their slightly tearful children.
“More than anything, I never thought I would get emotional,” Moyer said. “We just haven’t won on Senior Day in years. It was a great feeling.”