October 2, 2007

Field Hockey Makes Stronger Showing

Print More

Fresh from a 4-3 road upset against defending Ivy League champion Princeton over this past weekend, Cornell field hockey is demonstrating its ability to outlast opponents in closely played games — an ability that was conspicuously lacking in years past.
In all professional and collegiate athletics, the pressure of maintaining a slim lead down the stretch of a nail-biting finish proves to be a daunting and nerve-wracking task for most players on the field. While some players and teams under the intense microscope of Ivy League play might wilt, the Red has flourished
In her fourth season at head coach, Donna Hornibrook has established a definitive model of success for Cornell’s field hockey program. This is the first year that Hornibrook has a core of players she has personally recruited rather than inherited. The results are quite obvious.
“Last year we lost the close ones,” Hornibrook said. “I think we lost six or seven. We were competitive, but we wouldn’t always get the win because we were just very tight. This year we’ve done better.”
While the difference between last year’s and this year’s team is readily apparent, coach Hornibrook did not pinpoint one specific reason for the squad’s recent success.
“I think there are a lot of reasons,” Hornibrook said. “To sum it up with one reason would be difficult. Experience is definitely a factor. We’ve been a pretty young team. People tend to forget that, but we had nineteen underclassmen last year. And this is the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve had more upperclassmen than underclassmen. With co-captains Katie Bradshaw and Belen Martinez at the helm, the Red have exhibited a previously unseen sense of determination and a refreshing sense of urgency when it comes to maintaining a lead in close competitions.
“I think it’s a combination of being a year older and being able to stay composed,” Bradshaw said. “Also, I think our fitness has improved a lot from last year, which has really been helpful in coming back and maintaining a lead in games. We have a lot of people who have a lot of game experience. We’ve been in situations where we’re either up by a lot of goals or down by a lot of goals and we’re at the point where it doesn’t really faze us. We know we’re capable of either maintaining the lead or coming back if we’re down. I think we’re confident going into every game and we know that our coaches did a great job preparing us for each game.“
Compared to last season, in which Cornell won only two of its eight games decided by one goal, the Red has already more than doubled its win total in close contests this year, winning five out of its seven one-goal decisions.
In 2004, the squad had an even tougher time prevailing in tight games down the stretch, managing only to squeeze out a single victory in games decided by one goal.
“I think our leadership has been really good,” Hornibrook said. “I’ve been happy with our captains this year. Katie [Bradshaw] came into the program when we were coming off a 3-13 year. She’s been there, and she grew up in the program. She’s a really committed, mature captain. Belen [Martinez] has had a really good start to her career. She was recognized as an all-Ivy player for two consecutive years. She’s very humble and has a great work ethic. [Also,] I want to mention Lizzie Goldblatt. Her leadership is pretty important as a senior. [Although] Bradshaw and Martinez are captains, Goldblatt is a senior and she’s been through a lot with the program. I think she’s been a really calming influence on our team this year.”
Although Bradshaw and Martinez are the only players with a “C” on their chests, Hornibrook expects the same performance and intensity from the rest of her team, whether it is a one goal game or not.
“Our philosophy on leadership is that it doesn’t just come from the captains, and we’re looking for the leadership from everyone,” Hornibrook said. “We’re looking for somebody that’s team-oriented and willing to make sacrifices for the overall team success. I want somebody who is a team player and a character person. Right from day one, we want our players to know it’s about the team.”