The women’s lacrosse team has not played a road game since April 11. During that time, the Red played four games as it hosted four different teams and came away with four home victories as part of its current five-game winning streak.
No. 18 Cornell (9-4, 4-2 Ivy) will be playing its last home game of the season today as No. 5 Syracuse (13-2) comes to Ithaca. Head coach Jenny Graap ‘86 explained that the long home stand has provided many benefits for her team.[img_assist|nid=30110|title=Too quick for you|desc=Senior attacker Courtney Farrell (11) skillfully evades the Yale defense during a close, 8-6 victory over the Bulldogs on April 19.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“I do think it is a tremendous advantage to be at Cornell and to be playing on Schoellkopf field,” Graap said. “Of course, it is our home venue and at this point in the year when the academics are coming down really hard it is nice not to have to add in the travel time.”
In its game on Saturday, the Red outlasted No. 14 Yale for a hard-fought 8-6 victory. Despite its recent successes, Graap recognized that her team must continue to improve.
“The entire season is about improving and I do think there were some struggles that we could see against Yale,” Graap explained. “There were some moments where in particular the attack was not finishing on their shots. I think that was an issue that we noted in our last Ivy game. Our defense is continually working on shutting down our opponent’s top scoring threats. We are always looking to improve and we hope to be continuing to improve even through our last game of the season.”
The Red will need both its scoring touch and its defensive prowess in order to compete against a Syracuse team that has scored 18 or more goals in 12 of its 15 games this season and averages only 7.81 goals scored against on the year.
“What is unique about Syracuse is that they have so many offensive weapons,” Graap explained. “Of course, it is a challenge for any team t defend so many multiple point-getters.”
The Orange attack is led by a three-headed monster of sorts. Junior attack Katie Rowan, sophomore midfielder Christina Dove and sophomore attack Halley Quillinan all have over 48 goals on the year. However, the Orange attack does not end there, as 3 other Syracuse players have scored over 20 goals this season.
In particular, Rowan, who just last week was named a Tewaarton Trophy nominee, will be a primary focus for the Red defense. In addition to her 56 goals, Rowan has added 48 assists for a total of 104 points so far in the 2008 campaign. Graap noted that her team has been planning how to shut down such a well-balanced attack in practice.
“We are preparing by trying to tighten up on the cutters inside and also to be aware of their speed in transition,” Graap said. “A lot of their goals are coming from transition opportunities- draw controls or fast break off of a clear. They use their speed very well coming up the field and they go to the cage very hard in transition so that is something that we can be aware of and emphasize that in our preparation.”
Perhaps the biggest key to the Red’s ability to neutralize the Orange attack will be the play it receives at the goaltending position. Of late, sophomore goalie Kristen Reese, who made 8 saves while allowing only 6 goals against Yale, has provided Cornell with a solid last line of defense in net, but Graap notes that Reese must continue to work in order to keep the starting position.
“I think we are going to stay with our theme that we use for all our players: you earn your spot in practice,” Graap said. “I think Kristen has done a great job and that is obvious to us. As long as she continues to earn that position in practice then we are very positive, very excited about her play. I think that it would be wrong to say that it is just a locked-up done deal. She still has to earn that starting position for every game.”
Cornell did not had too much time to celebrate its Saturday victory over Yale, as it knew that the Syracuse game was just days away. Despite the short preparation time, Graap doesn’t think that the Red will be at a disadvantage today.
“In some ways it is very similar for Syracuse,” Graap said. “They were just down at Loyola on Saturday. They had to travel five and a half hours down to Baltimore to play Loyola for a game. We both played a game on Saturday; they just had to travel a little further than us. They have had limited time to prepare for us as well so I think that is kind of a neutral factor.”
Today’s game showcases two of the nation’s hottest teams, but Graap is careful not to let the excitement around the game cause any distraction for her team.
“I do not think it changes our strategy or our mindset,” Graap warned. “Just like any game… we have to take care of the details and we have to play together as a team and stick to what has worked. We have to work to not allow the hype to interfere with the preparation and the game.”