April 5, 2007

Women’s Lacrosse Discusses Shortcomings

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This is hump week for the women’s lacrosse team, the exact midpoint of their season. It is a time for the team to reflect on the first half of its season, to evaluate what it has done well and what it needs to improve, and, perhaps, to reassess its goals.
It has been a disappointing start for last year’s Ivy League champions, who today find themselves with a 2-6 record, 1-2 in the Ivy League.
“I don’t think this season is what anyone expected,” said senior tri-captain Ashleigh Smith. “But looking ahead, we still have eight games left. This has been a great opportunity for the team to get a fresh perspective.”
Smith is a defender, and anchors a defensive line that has turned out to be very different than last year’s.
“We aren’t last year’s team,” Smith said. “There’s been a lot of change on the defensive side. In the beginning of the season, we struggled to find our chemistry and in this season we’ve had to learn the hard way.”
Senior Anne Riordan, an All-American and All-Ivy League defender, tore her ACL at the beginning of the season and has not seen much play. Her injury has been a great loss to the team, as was the graduation of last year’s All-American goalie, Maggie Fava ’06.
“We have only one returning senior on our defensive unit,” senior tri-captain Margaux Viola said, “But we’ve been trying very hard to get the [new] people settled into their positions.
The team is fairly young, especially the defensive line. This is due to a powerful and influential class of 2006, as well as various injuries like Riordan’s.
“We didn’t originally look at this season as a rebuilding one,” Viola said. “But now it has started to become one.”
The loss of a goalie especially can be very difficult for a team to recover from, even more so if the goalie was someone as dominant as Fava was last year.
This year, Cornell primarily switches off between two goalies, senior Mary Montague and sophomore Renee Hughes.
“Both our goalies are doing great jobs,” Viola said. “They both have their good days.” But even with the combined talent of both Montague and Hughes, Viola said that there are also advantages to having only one goalie.
“That was definitely an advantage last year,” she said. “Maggie had a huge and consistent role. In one way, it’s good to have [Montague and Hughes] competing with each other. On the other hand, we were lucky last year to have had that consistency.”
Smith said that the team, which in the past couple of games has struggled to slow their opponents’ goal-scoring, will try to keep all future opponents to under ten goals a game.
“It’s definitely going to have to be a combined effort of the defense and attackers,” Smith said. “We also need to have confidence in our goalie. I think that we know that whoever’s starting is the goalie that earned it and deserved it that week. They step up when they need to, and the defense is all one unit, so it shouldn’t matter who the goalie is anyway.”
Smith said that the attack tries to score the first goal of each half, in an effort to start the game off with good momentum and attitude.
In the past, the team has tended to struggle in the beginning of the game, often letting the opposing team run-up a big lead. In the second half, Cornell usually fights back and the goals-scored differential is more even. Draw controls are another aspect of the game the team is concentrating on.
“When we’re winning the draw, we’re also scoring more goals and playing well,” Smith said.
Losing is hard on any team emotionally, especially if you start a season with a string of losses close together.
“It’s obviously not a fun way to start your season,” Viola said. “It really comes down to keeping each other motivated. That’s all you have — going as hard as you can. You want to keep it fun because that’s what makes you want to work hard.”
“I think that the whole mental side of the game is really important,” she said. “So keeping morale up is crucial.”
The team does a variety of things, both on game day itself, and during the week, to build team bonds and boost the team’s spirits.
The team has traditions of ice baths, encouraging notes between friends, locker room decorations and posters, as well as team dinners, to name a few.
“If we’re friends off the field, we hope that it will translate into team chemistry on the field,” Smith said.
As far as season goals go, both Smith and Viola said that although some of the goals have been altered since the beginning of the season, being able to walk off the field proud of playing for Cornell is still the main theme.
“We focus more on smaller things,” Smith said, “Like focusing on the individual opponent ahead of us. We take it one game at a time.”
“We have nothing to lose,” Viola said. “We’re playing because we want to.”