November 13, 2008

Seniors Oversee Unprecedented Success

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It’s hard for athletes past their prime to stay involved in team sports. Many athletes’ careers gradually come to an end sometime during high school. Sometimes, between the last day of practice and that end of the season celebration, someone breaks the bad news: you probably won’t be playing this game anymore, possibly for the rest of your life.
Some students — like Cornell seniors Abbi Horn, Eva Olesky, Belen Martinez and Stephanie Brownstein — didn’t worry about that because they had been recruited by a Division 1 program and would get a minimum of four more years of field hockey. They hadn’t even hit their prime yet.
[img_assist|nid=33555|title=Miss consistency|desc=Senior co-captain Belen Martinez (21) was awarded All-Ivy honors all four years. The steady defender guided the Red on both offense and defense.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
But now, it’s different. Eight years after they started playing for their high schools, these four seniors have to consider what will come after field hockey.
“I’m really not sure how field hockey is going to work into the rest of my life,” Martinez said. “I barely know what I want to do with that life as it is.”
Martinez is a Human Development major in the college of Human Ecology. Though the defender is probably the scariest person you could meet on the field, Martinez has hopes of practicing psychology or life coaching.
In four years at Cornell, she has also been a huge asset to the team as a scoring threat. Martinez’s nature, however, as someone who always seems calm, cool and collected, truly brings unity to the team.
“We’ve been tighter as a team than we’ve ever, ever been in the past four years [during] this past season,” Olesky said. “That and last year’s win over Princeton really are the defining moments of my field hockey career here that I will never forget.”
Olesky plans to work in New York City at the investment bank Barclays next year. She plans to play on a club team in a co-ed league in the city and is already excited to start.
“I’m pretty excited about leaving,” she said. “I’m very excited about the next step. You have four years to do things, college is four years, and it’s four years kind of for a reason.”
Olesky has spent the last four years balancing her studies, field hockey and the desire to do more. All of these girls realize that there was much more to do at Cornell, and maybe field hockey didn’t let them do all of it, but their best advice to any freshman athlete or recruit remains constant: try.
“There’s so much I wish I could have done,” Martinez said. “But, if anything, just enjoy Cornell and enjoy these four years. Do absolutely everything you can.”
Another senior, Stephanie Brownstein, has played in the backfield with Martinez and Olesky. The three defenders have been a big part of why the Red has produced five shutouts this season but have also contributed on the offensive side of the game.
But no matter what side of the field they’re playing from, opponents feel the full force of Red field hockey from every player on the field. Four years ago, when the current seniors had to figure out which school they wanted to go to, the closeness of the squad made Cornell stand out from the rest.
“I chose [this program] for the team,” Horn said. “What set Cornell ahead was the team. They really got along and had fun together.”
This year, Horn was named to the All-Ivy team for the first time. She has tallied the second-highest number of points on the Red in 2008 and ranks in the top-10 in the Ancient Eight in shots, shots per game and assists.
All these players have been competing in an ever-improving Ivy League field.
“The Ivy League as a whole is really getting better,” Horn said, “No one can really brush us under the rug anymore.”
It seemed that this recruiting class was the beginning of a new era in the Cornell field hockey program. Not only was this head coach Donna Hornibrook’s first full recruiting class, the group has seen a huge improvement in the standings during its tenure. In 2004, the Red was in last place in the Ivy League with a 1-6 record. When Martinez, Olesky, Horn and Brownstein joined up, their record improved to 4-3 in each of the next two years. In 2007, it rose to 5-2 and this year to 6-1. The Red passed the school record for most conference wins in a single season.
These four seniors will be sorely missed — having left a definite mark on the program that welcomed them in four long years ago.