April 24, 2009

W. Lax Concludes Ivy Season vs. Harvard

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The women’s lacrosse team will face Harvard tomorrow on Schoellkopf field for the final Ivy League matchups of the season for both squads.
Having toppled No. 10 Vanderbilt 11-4 in its most recent game on Tuesday, the Red rides into the weekend on a new high.
“[The game] was big in terms of motivation, because we saw that we could play really strongly against a team in the top ten both offensively and defensively,” said senior captain Jessica Wiegand. She added maintaining that intensity for their game against Harvard is a primary focus for the players.
Although weather reports indicate that the Crimson may be bringing warm weather for tomorrow’s game, they do not bring a winning record. Harvard (4-10, 1-5 Ivy) comes to Ithaca on a five-game losing streak, including four losses to Ivy opponents. Harvard’s most recent loss to Columbia was decided by a goal scored with 39.9 seconds remaining, handing the Crimson a loss in its last home game, 11-10.
Harvard has had a week to reflect on this loss and prepare for the match against Cornell (9-5, 3-3 Ivy), the second to last game of the season. The last time the two teams met, the Red was able to pull through with a 12-9 win at Harvard Stadium and secure second place in the Ivy League. Undoubtedly the Crimson comes to Schoellkopf with something to prove. [img_assist|nid=37191|title=Taking it all the way|desc=Coach Jenny Graap ’86 credits senior captain Jessica Wiegand with bringing energy and intensity to the team.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Taking into account last year’s game, which was a little too close for comfort, head coach Jenny Graap ’86 said, “Harvard plays us tight every year. Last May when we played them, they gave us a tremendous game. We were fortunate to pull off the win. They are the same tough and scrappy team that they were last year.”
Harvard’s lone Ivy League victory was an 8-5 home win against Yale on March 28. Although the Red also defeated the Bulldogs, it won by a narrower, one-goal margin off a goal by Wiegand in the last five minutes.
“The rivalry in the Ivy League is so strong,” said Graap. “Every game on our schedule is an opportunity to compete and play hard.”
In preparation for its match against the Crimson, she noted that the Red is working on performing against Harvard’s unique defensive strategy. The Crimson’s defensive tactic includes switching between a man-to-man and zone defense.
“It presents a challenge as Cornell does not face many zone defenses during the season,” Graap said. “Harvard’s unique defensive look is something that we’re taking very seriously.”
A win against Harvard would leave the Red with a winning conference record. Wiegand commented that this standing will have enhanced significance next year with the addition of a year-end Ivy League tournament. The winner of the tournament, which will consist of the top four teams in the league, will receive the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. The berth is currently awarded to the regular-season champion.
“It’s good to get the girls used to getting in the top four to set a precedent for next year,” said Wiegand.
Although women’s lacrosse nears the end of its season, they continue to look towards improvement.
“We’re going to make mistakes either way,” acknowledged Wiegand, “but it’s about decreasing ours and capitalizing on others’ mistakes…We’re looking to play smarter and cleaner,” she said.
Graap noted that the limited number of games remaining introduces another motivating force.
“There’s an eagerness and hunger for the opportunity to play,” said Graap.
In addition to noting the improvement of the non-starters, Graap commented on the senior class — particularly captains Wiegand and defender Deidre Lafferty.
“They definitely bring that urgency and that respect for the few opportunities that they have left. They want to value those, and get the most of what they have left in their career. That energy and intensity that they bring is certainly inspiring” she said.
Cornell women’s lacrosse has come a long way this season, starting off on a winning streak and hitting a rough patch with four consecutive losses, three of which were to Ivy opponents. However, with the taste of the most recent victory still in their mouth guards, the Red may be reaching its peak performance of the season, and hopes to make it to the playoffs.
“The team is in a good place right now” said Wiegand.