May 1, 2008

Women’s Lacrosse Will Miss Depth of Senior Class

Print More

It’s difficult to imagine the team without the graduating seniors of 2008, to think that next year’s fans won’t have the chance to see a lightning-fast, eye-opening goal by Courtney Farrell or the stalwart defensive effort directed by Amanda Linnertz and Ashleigh Smith.
While others will surely fill their shoes, the mark that the seven seniors have made on the women’s lacrosse program will be difficult to match for future generations, partially because of the sheer size of the class.
[img_assist|nid=30401|title=Simmer down|desc=Senior Katherine Simmons (14) looks to score April 13 against No. 17 Stanford. The midfielder netted four goals in the 13-9 win, including the game-winner.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“What makes them one of the best senior classes in my experience as a coach … is their size,” said head coach Jenny Graap ’86. “The fact that they’ve put in their four years, they’ve stuck it out. They’ve been here in the good times and the bad, and they’ve remained. The substantial number of talented women is noteworthy and is really awesome.”
This class of seniors boasts Cornell’s all-time leading scorer: Farrell. Despite being frequently double-teamed and face-guarded, Farrell is still leading the team in points with 51 — off of 25 goals and 26 assists — for the 2008 season. During the course of her career, Farrell has been an offensive weapon, tearing her way through Cornell’s record books. For all her offensive prowess, however, this is the year that she’s discovered her potential on the defensive side of the ball.
In a sport as team-oriented as lacrosse, even a player as talented as Farrell cannot carry the offense. That’s where seniors Noelle Dowd, Katherine Simmons and Charlotte Schmidlapp come in. With 43, 41 and 21 points, respectively, this year’s class of seniors boasts a depth rivaled by few other squads.
“The talent in the class is also what makes them one of the best classes ever,” Graap said. “The depth of the talent and the contributions that each of them have made to the success of the team is really remarkable.”
As talented as they are, this particular class has seen its share of failure along with success. After a 6-1 in-conference record (12-4 overall) led the team to the Ivy title in 2006, the 2007 season, finishing at 5-10, was a disappointment.
“We all felt like we let last season slip away after having such a strong sophomore year,” Simmons said, “and then not having that same success junior year made us really reflect on our season.”
The general consensus on the team was that a lack of focus and desire — not a deficit in talent — was the culprit behind the disappointing season, and the seniors responded by committing themselves to a more dedicated 2008 season.
“They realized what they wanted for their final season,” Graap said. “In order to bring the team back into a winning mode and in order to work to earn a postseason bid requires a lot of effort and work and leadership and they came to that realization early and set their sights on getting this program back on track and leaving a very strong mark, having their class make their mark in a very positive way in 2008.”
So far, it seems to have worked. The team, currently sitting at 10-5 and 5-2 Ivy, captured second place in the Ivy League, and this weekend’s matchup with Notre Dame carries potential postseason implications. Not everything has gone perfectly this season, but one of the senior class’s strengths is dealing with the both the highs and lows of athletics.
“This class in particular has been through a lot in their careers,” Graap said. “They were part of Cornell’s first-ever Ivy championship in 2006 and they were able to represent Cornell in the NCAA tournament so those were the high points. They were only sophomores at the time but they all had tremendously positive experiences in 2006. In 2007, their junior year, they had a complete about-face where they were part of a losing season and had a lot of disappointment and frustration.”
Because of their trial-plagued lacrosse career, the seniors have bonded and grown close with each other, and their closeness has made an impact on the rest of the team as well.
“The team atmosphere and the team chemistry and the girls on the team are a lot closer than they’ve ever been,” Smith said. “The support amongst the members of the team is better than it’s ever been before.”
I think we have a really close-knit class,” Simmons said. “It really started freshman year when we all lived together. … We were always really tight when it came to lacrosse and hanging out outside of lacrosse.”
In addition to their camaraderie, the seniors have impressed underclassmen with their work ethic. One player in particular, Marla Diakow, has been a mentor for more than one underclassman.
“Marla is definitely an unsung hero,” Graap said. “She’s very hardworking and certainly committed and diligent. She’s someone who makes our team better every day in practice. She’s an outstanding example of an unselfish team player.”
“She’s a hard worker,” Smith said. “She doesn’t get a lot of action on the field but she’s one of the hardest workers I know. She has a quiet leadership and she mentors a lot of the younger players.”
While everyone has gotten something different out of their time with Cornell’s lacrosse program, Simmons said that one thing in particular made her four years special.
“Friendship without a doubt is huge, the connections that I’ve made with girls that have graduated and girls that are younger, as well as the girls in my class, are really strong because it is a common bond that you share and you sacrifice a lot … when you’re on a team,” Simmons said. “Sharing that common bond and that experience is really powerful.”
The experience might get even a little bit more special if the team makes it to the NCAA tournament this year. Graap put it simply.
“We’re still going, our story’s not over yet in 2008.”