As senior midfielder Katie Hayes and senior midfielder/forward Lena Russomagno take the field for their last season this year, they will leave a positive impact on the women’s soccer team. Both junior captains last season, Hayes and Russomagno have demonstrated the leadership and experience that will be critical to facilitating the Red’s development into a competitive team within the Ivy League this season and into the future.
Head coach Danielle LaRoche said that she looks to both of them to be leaders, to be accountable and to train the hardest. This leadership and accountability has certainly been noticed by the younger players. Sophomore forward Moonie Mancho noted that both players provide motivation and positive reinforcement, encouraging everyone to always showcase their best. Mancho emphasized Hayes’ optimism and passion for the game as something that “helps motivate everyone to work harder.” While Russomagno also encourages everyone to work hard, Mancho noted that her sense of humor keeps the team in good spirits.
“She can always crack a smile out of you,” she laughed.
LaRoche echoed Mancho’s sentiments, affirming Russomagno’s knack for humor and Hayes’ passionate demeanor. Not only can Russomagno make others laugh, but she is always a good sport whenever she jokingly refers to her as a mummy because of the heavy wrappings on her knees during games, LaRoche said. Meanwhile, she cited Hayes’ speedy recovery from an ACL tear her freshman year as a testament to her spirited devotion to the team. Even though most players with ACL injuries are able to come back within a year, the fact that Hayes regained enough strength to play her entire next season at a competitive level is truly praiseworthy according to LaRoche, who said that “she worked harder than I’ve seen anyone work” during that time.
For both Russomagno and Hayes, battling through injuries is something that has contributed to their development into better soccer players. Although Russomagno expressed frustration at the chronically bad state of her knees –– as did Hayes when recalling her year-long recovery from the torn ACL –– dealing with such injuries as well as the toll that age takes has its benefits.
“As your fitness goes down, you learn to compensate for that, to be a smarter player,” Hayes said.
Growth as a result of such experiences is hard to convey to others, but their outward response to such obstacles has undoubtedly not been lost on the team.
Aside from their example on the field, Russomagno and Hayes have served effectively as channels of communication between LaRoche and the rest of the team. LaRoche noted that they are often the ones who will approach her with ideas for improving the performance of the team, such as suggesting a recovery practice after a particularly hard practice, or letting her know if the freshmen didn’t understand something. LaRoche appreciates the fact that they are always able to come to her “in a non-confrontational way.”
Both Russomagno and Hayes acknowledged the special role that they have as liaisons to the coach whenever there is any disconnect between the coach and the rest of the team. As fellow teammates, they are often more approachable to the younger players, Russomagno said.
Hayes and Russomagno have also helped forge stronger ties among players and coaching staff, an intangible but essential part of a successful team. Mancho fondly recalled how they made her feel welcome on the team last year.
“You’re scared coming to college,” Mancho admitted, so their reaching out to her both on and off the field was critical in helping her find a home at Cornell.
LaRoche echoed these sentiments. Joining the team the same year that she took over as head coach, Hayes and Russomagno have developed a close relationship with her. After being offered a job following her internship this past summer, Russomagno called LaRoche shortly thereafter to express her excitement. As LaRoche simply put it, “The fact that she called me just 20 minutes later says a lot about our relationship.”
Original Author: Brian Bencomo