September 20, 2010

Women’s Soccer Surpasses 2009 Win Total vs. Bison

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A pair of second half goals were enough to propel the women’s soccer team to a 2-0 victory at Bucknell University on Sunday after dropping its last two matches against St. Bonaventure and Seton Hall. Junior Megan Bartlett made six saves for the Red as she notched her first shutout of the season.

After a fairly even first half, sophomore Maneesha Chitanvis broke the scoreless tie in the 58th minute off a perfectly-paced Abigail Apistolas lob. Chitanvis snuck in behind the defense for the strike, her first of the season. The Red put the game out of reach after freshman Annmarie Irwin beat the Bucknell keeper at the near post in the 71st minute. Irwin’s goal was the first of her career. Sophomore Xandra Hompe was credited with the assist.

Sunday’s victory marked a change in Cornell’s attacking philosophy from the last few games. The Red played Sunday’s match with a three-forward system instead of the usual two, which provided more attacking options against the Bison.

“For this game and how Bucknell specifically plays, this was a great formation since their backline was not the strongest,” said sophomore defender Kristina Jackson. “One of our weaknesses is putting the ball in the back of the net, so we really wanted to make sure we could capitalize on their relatively weak back line with our fast forwards.”

Despite playing with one less midfielder as a result of the formation change, the Red was not concerned with the added pressure the adjustment put on the defense.

“The back four have been playing amazingly, and I knew that they could probably stand having one less midfielder in front of them,” said head coach Danielle LaRoche. “Our main worry was whether the three forwards could work together smoothly. We had to make sure all three of them remain active and involved in the attack.”

The midfield and defense were up to the challenge, successfully shutting out the Bison offense despite playing with one less player in the midfield.

“Since there was one less person in the midfield, their outside wing was often open, so we really had to take care of it by calling some forwards back or midfielders to fill out the marks in the middle,” Jackson said. “We did that and we won the game.”

Based on the scouting reports of Cornell’s next three opponents: Binghamton, Columbia and Manhattan College, the Red will likely continue to play with the three-forward system.

“I really think this system will match up with them nicely,” LaRoche said. “After this weekend we’ll probably step back and reassess and see if the system is still working for us.”

After just five games into 2010, the Cornell women’s soccer team has already surpassed its win total from last season. By starting the season with two wins in its first five matches after going 1-13-1 in ’09, the Red showed how big of an impact a new recruiting class and a year of seasoning for veteran players can make. Entering her fourth season at the helm of the women’s program, LaRoche believes she has finally recruited enough players in her three recruiting classes to instill the philosophies she brought to the program back in 2007.

“Whenever a coach takes over a program, it takes two or three or even four years of new recruiting classes to fit the style of the coach,” LaRoche said. “Having three recruiting classes in now, I think that our players have really matured. I think we have better players now and we have a great freshman class. In addition, the players that have been around for awhile have developed amazingly in the last few years.”

Original Author: Jimmy Xi