October 30, 2008

Field Hockey Has History With Next Ivy Opponent

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The field hockey team’s season is now one of the strongest in the program’s history. Though starting off the season with an even record, the team proved itself in Ivy play. Going undefeated through one of the tightest leagues, the team has proven it knows how to play in the crunch. On the horizon is No. 11 Princeton, a powerhouse in both the Ancient Eight and the nation. You could consider this a David and Goliath matchup, but we all know who won that time.
“We’re clearly the underdog in the game and we’ll be prepared to do our best,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook.
The team’s accolades began early with an Ivy League rookie of the week award for junior goalkeeper Melanie Jue. In the following weeks senior Abbi Horn, sophomore Catie de Stio and junior Kelley Kantarian have all won player of the week honors. But beyond even those honored players, this is a team that can strike from anywhere.
“I think that one of the biggest strengths of our team this year is that anyone can get it done, whether it be a goal or a strong defensive play,” said junior Katie Kirnan.
These two teams have a history. One that peaked last year with the Red taking an upset win, Princeton’s only loss in the Ivy League. Though that didn’t hold the Tigers back from winning the league for the 12th time in 13 years, it did set a precedent. They aren’t invincible.
“I think beating them last year does really help the players … but this is a new season, with new teams, both who are going into this game with some confidence,” Hornibrook said.
Repeating last year’s amazing feat is going to require some really good play. If anything, this is a test of whether the Red can bring it’s “A” game, whether they want the championship bad enough. Coming down the stretch its hard not to think about the past. This season has been marked by close games, and recently they’ve been going for the Red.
But history, whether in the long term or just this season, doesn’t seem to be on Hornibrook’s mind.
“Our focus is not on the history but on the moment,” she said. “Every game is different, and it is won on the field.”
When looking at the stats there’s a lot to be said about both teams. Princeton is solid from front to back. They have the League points leader freshman Katie Reinprecht, and the goalie with the lowest goals against average sophomore Jennifer King who allows less than one goal a game. The Red has the No. 2 goalie in junior Melanie Jue, and the shots per game leader senior Belen Martinez. So what’s it going to come down to? Will it be grit, determination, or good old-fashioned luck?
“I know for certain I’m looking forward for a great matchup, Princeton is a team that likes to score, and we have to be prepared to see some points on their side of the board,” Kirnan said, “We’ve been scored against, and we know how to come back.”
Cornell hasn’t seen a field hockey championship in 17 years, while Princeton has had a hard time not seeing one. But as they stand today, both teams are equal. Both teams are undefeated in the Ancient Eight, both teams have winning records, both teams have explosive offenses and dominant defenses and both are vying for a championship. Neither team is going to go down easily.
“We know they’re a very, very good team and it’s going to take our best game to win,” Hornibrook said. “We respect that, but we are confident going into this.”