September 8, 2008

Women’s Soccer Splits Weekend Tournament

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The Cornell women’s soccer team kicked off its 2008 campaign by splitting two games this weekend at the St. Bonaventure/Puma Invitational in Rochester. The Red opened up its year with a dominating 4-1 over Oakland University (Mich.) on Friday night. Cornell stayed in Rochester to face Central Michigan yesterday afternoon, but was shut out, 3-0.
With five freshman and two sophomores making their first ever appearances in a Cornell soccer game, the young Red outplayed Oakland throughout Friday’s game. Last year’s team MVP and recipient of an All-Ivy Honorable Mention, sophomore Lena Russomagno continued to lead the team’s offense, scoring two goals and launching four shots on goal.
“We are obviously a very new team,” Russomagno said. “We have a lot of freshmen playing and making an impact on the game so no one was real sure what to expect from the beginning.”
Russomagno put the Red on the board just 51 seconds into the game with a high shot over the head of the Oakland goalkeeper. Freshman forward Brooke Chang extended the Red’s lead to 2-0 with a goal of her own in the 25th minute after displaying some remarkable ball-handling skills.[img_assist|nid=31503|title=All eyes on you|desc=Sophomore striker Lena Russomagno (16) surveys the field during a 4-0 loss to Brown Oct. 21, 2007.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Senior tri-captain defender Whitney Stich was happy with her team’s strong start on Friday and noted that her teammates did an excellent job of establishing their own pace and system of play.
“I think we got the ball forward and we did a really good job of playing our game, not someone else’s style, but our style and I think that’s what helped us out,” she said.
In the 33rd minute, Oakland forward Deanna Colarossi forced a turnover and moved in alone on sophomore goalie Jodi Palmer. Colarossi chipped a shot just beyond Palmer’s fingertips, cutting the Red lead to 2-1 heading into the half.
In the second half, Oakland was once again unable to handle the Red’s offensive pressure. In the 65th minute, Russomagno notched her second goal of the game off of a broken corner kick set. Cornell Sophomore forward Christina Law scored a tally of her own and pushed the score to 4-1 with just five minutes left, thereby cementing the victory for her team.
Both Russomagno and Stich were very excited by the depth that the Red showed on the offensive end.
“I thought we played really well on Friday, it was great that we got four goals,” Russomagno said. “We have a lot of talent and it was great that the goals came from three different people which shows that we are a lot deeper than we have been in the past. We came out strong and hopefully that will be as simple the rest of the year.”
Despite the momentum earned in Friday’s triumph, the Red’s game yesterday against Central Michigan did not go quite as the Red had hoped. The Chippewas opened the scoring just eight minutes into the match and added another score just two minutes later.
Central Michigan drastically outplayed the Red in the first half, outshooting Cornell 16-4 in the opening frame. The Red was forced to play catch-up the rest of the game.
However, Cornell came out fighting in the second, and actually outshot the Chippewas 10-4 in the second half. Despite the barrage of shots, Central Michigan extended its lead with a goal from sophomore forward Valerie Prause. Still, Cornell was unable to mount a comeback.
“[Central Michigan] came out hard and I don’t think we were ready for it and we freaked out a little bit,” Stich said. “After that, if you look at the stats, we dominated. So it was brutal, but I am still really proud of the team for continuing to fight.”
Russomagno echoed similar sentiments adding that the Red displayed a lot of fortitude by continuing to fight despite the early deficit.
“Central Michigan had a different formation and they are also very physical on the ball,” she said. “In the first half, we got caught up playing their game and we weren’t able to beat them at that. In the second half, we played really well, but it was a little late to be able to change the outcome. But, we just need to remember to play our own game. We got caught playing defense a lot and reacting to them, rather than just playing our own game.”
With the so many players seeing college action for the first time, Stich explained that the opening weekend should prove invaluable in helping the Red improve for the rest of the season.
“We have to learn to play a full 90 minutes of soccer and not just a half,” Stich said. “That will make a big difference. I think we are going to have to be stronger on the ball and get used to girls coming in hard and especially late tackles. We just have to get used to it. It may not be fair, but we have to learn to play that way.”