October 3, 2008

Field Hockey Prepares for Title Run

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In each of the past two seasons, Cornell has finished runner-up in the Ivy League standings. This year the field hockey team is looking to take that next step. So far, so good. The Red has gotten off to a 4-4 start, with a 2-0 record in the Ivy League. Though the team hasn’t won the Ivy title in 18 years, the opening victories are definitely a step in the right direction.
“We’ve really had a promising start in our Ivy League season, getting by Columbia in Connecticut and taking a win against Penn at home,” said assistant coach Ellen Davies.
However, the Red proved to be inconsistent in the preseason, posting a 0-4 record in away matches. Though the team has picked up two regular season wins in neutral locations, the Red’s losses on the road may prove to be a factor entering a tough Ivy League season.
“We put a solid effort out there,” Davies said. “We’ve been playing ranked teams and past NCAA championship teams, but the key is to just put that same game out on the field no matter if we’re at home or on the road.”
Cornell will rely on its 11 returning starters to provide key leadership and experience on the field. This group of players has had a lot of time to develop, and should be a lot more unified and cohesive than many of its rivals.
“Everyone is bonding really well,” said junior goalkeeper Melanie Jue. “Having that many returning seniors, everyone has an idea of how everyone else is going to react.”
However, the Red has yet to show the offensive explosion it will need in the Ivy League season. Many of Cornell’s victories and defeats have been in close matches.
“It was good preparation to play some evenly matched games, it helped us going up into Ivy play against Penn,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook.
Senior captains Belen Martinez, Abbi Horn and Eva Olesky have proven to be the Red’s best offensive weapons. The key for the Red, according to Hornibrook, is to maintain a balance between offense and defense.
“We’re pretty good about every facet of our team, between goalkeeping, the backfield and a pretty solid midfield,” Hornibrook said.
The team added four freshmen to the lineup, who have shown promise despite limited playing opportunities. Freshman attacker Maura Greenwood currently leads the class of 2012, playing in five games for the Red so far.
“We’ve got a great freshman class, who are all capable of stepping into those starting spots next year,” Jue said. “Maura Greenwood has a great hit, and Jess Buckingham is really doing a great job on defense.”
Despite an unblemished Ivy record at this point, the Red has yet to face Harvard and defending champ Princeton.
“Our objective is to take one Ivy game at a time, and try to take what you can from the past to win in the future,” Hornibrook said.
Princeton is currently ranked No. 15, and is the favorite to pick up yet another Ivy championship with an explosive offense that has scored 199 points in its first eight contests.
“Princeton is definitely the team to beat, we’re coming into this year gunning for them, especially after our upset win last year,” Jue said.
The Red will also play out-of-conference matches against Lehigh, Colgate and Bryant. Colgate is coming off a recent win against No. 18 Albany. That upset is putting wind in the sails of a team whose record is now a solid 6-4. They may be the best contenders against the Red, and may prove to be the best test going into a tougher conference matchup against Harvard on Oct. 18.
“I think we’ve been playing a lot harder teams, and we’re matching up well,” Davies said. “We’ve just got to play as competitively as we can.”