After a series of disappointing losses, the women’s soccer team (1-6-1, 0-1-0 Ivy) is looking forward to its upcoming games, trying to turn things around and achieve its goal of having a chance of winning the Ivy League title.
Head coach Danielle LaRoche leads the Red for a second season and has set her goals high in 2008. Whitney Stich — the only senior on the squad — as well as junior forward Eva Dixon and sophomore midfielder Lena Russomagno, will share the captain’s duties.
“Every single game is going to be a battle,” LaRoche said. “Every win that we get, we’re going to have earned it. Looking at our talent level and where we are injury wise, I really think that we can compete.”
Along with 13 returning players, the Red welcomed nine freshmen to the team. This year’s incoming class was ranked in the top-100 for the first time ever, placing 94th in the nation on soccerbuzz.com’s list.
Interestingly, freshmen midfielders Kelsey MacDonald and Abigail Apistolas, along with freshmen forward Brook Chang were all club teammates in high school. Their familiarity with each other should only enhance their performances on the field this season.
“The main thing with the team this year is that there’s a lot of potential,” Russomagno said. “There’s a lot of people coming in, a lot of people making an impact as young players. We just need to start being intense from the beginning of the game and we just need to score.”
Leading the attack for the Red are Dixon and sophomore Natalie Zandt, both returning starters. Chang and Samantha Wright will join them on the first line. Dixon, a two-time All-Ivy Honoree, and Zandt were injured last season, but are much healthier this year — already making a big impact on the team. In addition, Chang and Wright have both demonstrated their versatility in the lineup, as they can also play either midfield or defense, respectively.
The middle line has a wave of new talent with a trio of freshmen — MacDonald, Apistolas and Abageal Vonderweidt — in addition to the four returning members of the lineup.
After many defenders graduated last year, the Red rebuilt the unit by adding sophomore transfer Jules Lapsa and freshman Sidra Bonner to its five returning players.
Sophomore goalkeeper Jodi Palmer returns this year after taking on a strong leadership position in her rookie season. Palmer has demonstrated her expertise in goal again this year, including a nine-save effort against Columbia last weekend. Cornell added two freshmen goaltenders, Megan Bartlett and Kelly Murphy, who have each already seen time in goal this season.
Despite the Red’s unimpressive record, the team has shown promise in the first four weeks of the season.
“Really [what’s important for us is] to be confident in our ability and not let our record define who we are, because it’s really not who we are,” LaRoche said. “Most of my work the entire season is on confidence and, as the wins come, the confidence will grow.”
One of the team’s main goals is finishing when it has possession of the ball and securing leads at the end of games. This is something that should come with more experience.
“Right now, I think we’re just holding ourselves back in that we are reacting too much to other teams,” Russomagno said. “I’m pretty confident [that] in the future we can turn things around.”
With the season at its halfway point, the Red has seven games remaining, including six more crucial Ivy League matchups.