September 7, 2007

Field Hockey Team Starts Ivy Schedule Against Columbia

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In the first full weekend of Ivy League play, the field hockey team will play host to Columbia tomorrow afternoon at Schoellkopf Field.
“The first Ivy League game is always a little different,” said junior co-captain Belen Martinez. “You’re a little nervous, but I think we’re all very excited, and we know what we can do out there. We proved to ourselves this past weekend that we can compete, so we are just going to go out there and play our hardest.”
After a weekend sweep of Patriot League rivals, Lehigh and Lafayette, Cornell (2-0) is eager to prove its success was no fluke. However, it is to be determined if Columbia (0-1) can mount a legitimate threat to the Red as the Lions are the Ancient Eight’s perennial basement dweller.
“Coaching 101” strategy mandates no team is to be taken lightly, and fourth-year head coach Donna Hornibrook, like many other overworked and overachieving Cornellians, has done her homework in this area.
“We are not looking at this as anything but a tough game,” Hornibrook said. “I don’t think there’s a chance of [overlooking Columbia.] We are becoming a more experienced team. We’ve been really young in the last couple of years, and we’ve been in a lot of different situations, but we don’t take anybody for granted. In fact, if you do that in the Ivy League, you’re really setting yourself up for a big mistake because it doesn’t matter what the team’s record is. On any given day, any of the teams can beat the other if they don’t show up ready play.”
After breaking down game film and analyzing her team’s play, Hornibrook has a firm grasp on what the Red needs to accomplish to continue to improve.
“Our focus this weekend is trying to execute a little bit better,” she said. “We are trying to do a better job of creating penalty corners and we need to do a better job finishing. We got corner opportunities and circle entries, but we want to see if we can get more shots at the cage, so that we can finish a little bit more. With the number of entries we had in the circle against Lafayette, we should have definitely had less of tight game than we did.”
With the Red leading the Lions 10-1 in the all-time series and defeating them, 3-0, last season, a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to Quinnipiac last Sunday may add more fuel to Columbia’s fire as they go for redemption against the Red.
Columbia will rely on junior midfielder Megan Davidson, a 2006 All-Ivy League selection and NFHCA second-team honoree.
Hornibrook is well aware of Davidson’s explosive capabilities, but feels her team is up to the task.
“[Davidson’s] a very solid player,” Hornibrook said. “She’s involved in every aspect of their play. She’s involved in the penalty corners and she does a really good job defensively. She has some really good attacking skills, so we are going to be really well-aware of her for sure.”
However, Hornibrook explained that Cornell does not tailor its game plan to any specific player.
“The way we defend, we really don’t spend a whole lot of time focusing on just one individual player,” she said. “We are always aware, in our system, where those good players are, but it doesn’t change dramatically how we play on any given day. We try to focus on playing our game.”
True to the team mantra, junior goalkeeper Shannon Prescott, the last line of defense, reinforced her coach’s sentiments.
“We try to prepare for all the players on the field and not just one in particular,” she said. “We do look at tape, but our coaches try to make the point not to overemphasize any individual player. If we are overly worried about one player, we are going to be leaving other players on the field open. Also, at this level, it’s hard to stand out because every player is so dangerous.”
The Red will look to open back-to-back seasons with a 3-0 record for the first time since the 1994 and 1995 teams.
“Obviously, it would be an honor,” Martinez said. “It just shows our team effort and how much work we put into this. We work hard every practice and it is nice to see that it pays off … and that our team is actually making a difference for this program, but I don’t think we are really focused on breaking any record. We just go out there and play hard.”