September 3, 2009

Field Hockey Opens Season in Washington, D.C.

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The Cornell field hockey team, under head coach Donna Hornibrook, will open the 2009 season on the road with two games this weekend at American University in Washington, D.C. The Red will face Davidson on Saturday at 2 p.m. and gear up again to play Georgetown Sunday afternoon.
Back in 2008, the Red finished with an overall record of 11-5 and went 6-1 in the Ivy League to rank second among the Ancient Eight for the third consecutive year. In addition to tallying the most total and conference wins in a season in program history, the Red rewrote the school record book with 45 goals, 38 assists, and 128 points. While the team posted outstanding numbers on the offensive end, the solid efforts of the defense held the Red’s opponents to less than 10 shots and to an all-time low average of 5.4 penalty corners per game.
Senior tri-captain and midfielder Katie Kirnan attributed the team’s success last fall to its team chemistry and unique balance of hard work and enthusiasm.
[img_assist|nid=37793|title=Weaving through Traffic|desc=The field hockey team will face tough competition in the Ancient Eight from their perennial rivals, Princeton. The team returns most of its starters.|link=node|align=left|width=336|height=317]
“Cornell Field Hockey has always demonstrated a great work ethic,” Kirnan said. “We brought intensity everyday in practice and were able to combine that with having fun. We are returning this season with these same characteristics.”
The Red welcomes back 12 letter winners, including eight starters, and adds a freshman class of seven.
Senior back and tri-captain Natalie Appleton will serve as a central figure in Cornell’s defensive unit with senior goalie Melanie Jue between the pipes.
“We aim to build on last year by taking each game as it comes and staying positive,” Appleton said.
“Last year, the team did a good job of keeping things in perspective,” Kirnan said. “We lost some key players, but at the same time, we are introducing new talent with a lot of potential and depth to complement our more experienced members. Most of us have been playing together for a while now, but I feel that our newcomers have gelled really well with the team.”
“We have grown very familiar with how each other plays and where each other moves on the field,” Appleton said. “This familiarity only makes working together easier.”
While team workouts and individual sessions emphasizing technique began last spring, much of the Red continued rigorous fitness and practice regimes throughout the summer months. Several players returned to campus in July as instructors for the Cornell Camp and a few even attended various training camps together.
Senior attacker and tri-captain Kelley Kantarian and three of her teammates opted to spend their vacation in Ithaca.
“Four of us were here all summer working out together,” Kantarian said. “It was really nice having the chance to use the strength and conditioning staff here.”
The field hockey squad often meets with strength and conditioning coach Jay Andress to improve its overall fitness.
“Jay is really motivating and pushed us hard to help us get ready,” Kantarian said. “He worked a lot with the team in the spring during the off-season and got us in condition. He did a great job with us.”
As for the entire squad, preseason officially began the morning of August 21 on Martha Dodson Field, where all 19 women were able to reunite or become acquainted with one another for the first time.
Appleton described the benefits of moving in before the rest of the student body. “Preseason during orientation week gives you time to dedicate yourself to the team and sport. It is an opportunity to bond before classes start. Preparation takes place both on and off the field. Getting to know your teammates outside of field hockey definitely translates in games and practices.”
“For the past couple of weeks in practice we have been working on organizing ourselves and creating a strategy that we can work with and that we are all comfortable with,” Kirnan said.
“We have a strong leadership group of upperclassmen,” Kirnan said. “But with that being said, every person, whether she is injured or healthy, a starter or nonstarter, is a critical part of the team.”
Davidson (1-1) will already have played three games before meeting Cornell on Saturday. In its first game of the season, the Wildcats fell to Bell State 1-2, but Davidson recently came out on top of Sacred Heart in a 1-0 victory. The Wildcats will take on Georgetown (0-2) tomorrow prior to its date with the Red. The Hoyas lost their first two games of the season to Longwood, 1-0, and Lock Haven, 4-3.
For the Red’s four seniors, Saturday marks the first match-up of their college careers versus Davidson. Cornell defeated Georgetown, 4-0, on its home turf last September.
However, Kirnan was quick to comment, “Regardless of whether or not our opponents have appeared on the schedule before, we are going to take every team seriously.”
“Like everyone else at this point in the fall, we are a new team and we will not take our competition lightly,” Kantarian said.
After an exciting 2008 campaign that left the Red just shy of an Ivy League title and NCAA berth, the team is moving towards making good on this season. Kirnan, aware of the pressure that past achievement brings to the 2009 team, avoids drawing conclusions regarding this season’s prospects.
“We don’t necessarily view goals and expectations in terms of results and statistics,” Kirnan said. “We want to be consistent with our play and disciplined in bringing energy and having a good attitude each day.”