October 5, 2007

Red, Crimson Seek First Ivy Win

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While many students will be leaving Ithaca for fall break this weekend, the women’s soccer team will stay right at home for an Ivy League match versus Harvard. The Red will host the Crimson at Berman Field tomorrow at noon, as each team tries to bounce back from a loss in its first Ivy game. Cornell (4-6-0, 0-1-0 Ivy) fell in its opener at Penn 1-0 last weekend, whereas Harvard (6-3-1, 0-1-0) lost at Yale 2-1 in overtime.
Harvard, who is ranked No. 7 in the Northeast region according to Soccer Buzz magazine — and eighth in the nation — is coming off a 1-0 win over Fairfield. The Crimson has not lost to the Red since 1993, a statistic that first-year head coach Danielle LaRoche is indifferent to.
“There is some history, and I understand people looking at those statistics,” she said. “But, if you look around the country at any sport … anything can happen on any given day, so that statistic does not mean a whole lot to us.”
Freshman midfielder Lena Russomagno echoed those sentiments, giving no regard to the Red’s winless streak versus the Crimson.
“Every game has to be played like a playoff game, because every game matters so much,” Russomango said. “We’re not so concerned with those statistics as we are with actually winning the games.”
The women will have to find a way to stop a strong Crimson attack that is led by freshmen forwards Katherine Sheeleigh and Gina Wideroff. Sheeleigh leads the team in both scoring (5) and points (10). Her ten points this season are good for third in the Ivy League. Wideroff is second on the team in points with three goals and two assists thus far. The Crimson has also been getting strong play out of sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Mann, who ranks third in the Ivy in goals against average (0.75 goals/game).
The Red enters the match having dropped its last three games, and is looking to rebound from its deflating 1-0 loss at Penn and a 3-0 home loss to Colgate this past weekend. The squad has failed to score in its last 275 minutes of play. Russomagno, who leads both the team and the Ivy League in both goals and points, will look to get the Red’s offense back on track.
“Last weekend, especially, we were getting stretched in the midfield and because of that, have been overworked,” Russomango said. “We’ve been trying to get our formation tighter and start defending better, which will hopefully allow us to score some goals.”
On the other side of the ball, the Red’s underwhelming defensive statistics are deceiving as the squad has improved greatly. It is last in the Ivy in goals against average at 2.02 goals allowed per game, but has given up 1.33 goals per contest in its last six matches—compared to 3.25 goals per game in its first four. The squad had switched over from a man-to-man marking scheme to a zonal defensive scheme, and LaRoche attributes the improved play of late to the team making some early adjustments.
“I really think it just took that long for the defense to figure [the new scheme] out,” she said. “Leslie [Campbell] and Jill [Tirabassi], as seniors, have done an outstanding job at leading the backs and organizing the defense.”
The Red hopes to use its home field advantage to notch its first Ivy win of the year. Just two of Harvard’s six wins have come on the road, while the disparity is even bigger for the Red. Cornell has yet to win on the road, but owns a 4-1-0 home record. Fall break, on the other hand, will not affect the Red for this weekend’s match, according to Russomagno.
“Honestly, I don’t think [fall break] will make a difference for the Harvard game,” she said. “Maybe for next weekend, though, it will be good to have a brief break so we can come back even stronger.”