October 2, 2007

Women's Soccer to Focus on Ivy League

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This Sunday at Berman Field, the Red closed the book on more than just its undefeated home record — the disappointing 3-0 loss to local rival Colgate marked the end of its non-conference slate this year. The team can now fully turn its attention to the heart of its season, the Ivy League schedule.
Cornell has already played one Ivy game this year, a disheartening 1-0 loss to Penn in which the Red burned itself with an own-goal in the ninth minute. Despite the loss, the team continues to aim for the league title this year.
“Right now, four teams have a win and four teams have a loss,” said freshman midfielder Laura Buerkle. “So the title is still there for the taking and we really feel like we can beat any team if we play our game.”
Some teams will be tougher to beat than others, however. One game to circle on the calendar is the season finale, a home duel with Columbia on Nov. 10. The game could have big implications in conference standings but could also pose an emotional challenge for several Red seniors who will be featured as part of senior night.
The Lions, the defending Ivy League champions, are 6-2-2 to date this year. They are distinct from other Ivy teams in that they feature a truly dominant goalkeeper, senior Allison Vespa. Vespa, last year’s goalkeeper on the All-Ivy Team, posted a remarkable 10 shutouts in 2006 and has five in ten games thus far in 2007.
“Yeah, everyone is saying that the Columbia game will be tough on senior night,” Buerkle said. “But we think everyone is beatable also.”
The Red’s other two home games, Harvard and Brown, present big opportunities for the Red to move up the standings. Both teams currently stand at 0-1, and the games are likely must-win games for the Red if they are to win to the conference. Head coach Danielle LaRoche stressed home-field protection before the season, and the Red has responded with a 4-1 mark so far.
The Ivy League has no season-ending tournament like most other conferences, making each conference matchup a veritable playoff game.
“There’s a lot of pressure because every game really counts,” Buerkle said. “Every game, every point is huge because of the point-differential [tiebreak] … We are coming in with a loss, and we’ve been training really hard this week for Harvard.”
After hosting Princeton in 2006, Cornell will travel to New Jersey this year to take on the Tigers on Oct. 27. The Red was haunted by one-game home losses to Princeton and Penn last season and will try to avenge a hotly contested 1-0 loss to Princeton in what figures to be a low-scoring game. The Tigers have won four consecutive Ivy League games dating back to last season.
The Red’s best chance for its first road win of the year, however, may come at New Haven, where the Red will take on the Bulldogs in two weeks. Yale’s young and inexperienced defense allowed the Red to score three goals in their 2006 meeting — the team’s only Ivy win of the year.
“Even though we lost to Penn, our attitude is great right now,” Buerkle said. “The only chance to win the league is in the regular season.”