October 31, 2008

Field Hockey Hosts Ivy League’s Best

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With at least a share of the Ivy League title on the line, the field hockey team will face off against No. 11 Princeton tomorrow at noon on Marsha Dodson Field. Cornell (10-4, 5-0 Ivy) is looking to capture its first Ivy title since 1990, when it shared the honor with Harvard and Brown.
This is all too familiar territory for the Tigers (12-2, 5-0 Ivy), the winningest field hockey team in Ivy League history. Having captured 13 of the last 14 titles, including the last three, the Princeton seniors enter this game without having experienced anything but Ivy championships during their college tenure.
Given the circumstances of last year’s matchup between the two squads, tomorrow’s contest is guaranteed to be an emotional, hard-fought and gritty battle between this season’s Ivy powerhouses. On Sept. 29, 2007, Cornell upset the heavily favored Tigers, 4-3, on a last-second goal by then junior Abbi Horn.[img_assist|nid=33169|title=Win or go home|desc=Senior co-captain Belen Martinez (21) will anchor the Red defense in tomorrow’s Princeton matchup, which will decide the Ivy title.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
After battling back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to take a 3-2 lead, Princeton tied the game with five minutes to go. On just the fourth penalty corner of the game for the Red, and with time winding down, Horn notched her first goal of the season and sent the Cornell team into bedlam. The most memorable moment in her career, current senior co-captain Belen Martinez briefly celebrated before shedding tears of joy while calling her parents to pass along the good news.
The monumental victory snapped the Tigers’ 16-game unbeaten streak against the Red. Cornell, unfortunately, went on to lose a heartbreaking game to Harvard, 3-2, in overtime, which eventually cost them the Ivy title.
Nevertheless, on Saturday Cornell will be looking to build upon a seven-game conference winning streak, as well as a perfect 5-0 mark at home since opening Marsha Dodson Field. Princeton is having a spectacular season as well, with just two losses, both to top-5 ranked opponents, including No. 5 UConn and No. 2 Maryland.
A win for the Red, however, would set a single season school record for both overall wins at 11 and conference wins at 6. Standing in their road to victory is a foe that has historically dominated Cornell, as Princeton maintains a commanding series record of 22-5-3.
For the Red to arise victorious, the team must employ the same formula it has used all season. A contribution from every player on the field, not just the leading scorers, has been the secret to success. While sophomore Catie De Stio, junior Kelley Kantarian and senior co-captain Horn were each named Ivy League Player of the Week at one point this season, head coach Donna Hornibrook consistently preaches that statistics which do not show up on the score sheet decide games.
Most notably, the stingy Red defense, led by Martinez and backed up junior goalie Melanie Jue, will be responsible for containing the high octane Tiger offense. It is an offense that is ranked third in the nation in scoring average (4.13), goals per game (4.21) and scoring margin (2.59). Tiger freshmen midfielder Katie Reinprecht and attacker Kathleen Sharkey rank ninth in the nation in points per game (2.58) and 21st in the country in goals per game (0.83), respectively.
A win on Saturday would be the perfect cap to a successful campaign at Cornell for the class of 2009. With two games remaining in the season, the seniors are already the most successful class in program history, having complied 37 overall wins and 18 Ivy League victories, compared with 33 victories and 14 Ivy wins for the class of 1988.