The women’s soccer team split a pair of matches this weekend, falling, 3-0, to Penn on Friday and defeating Colgate, 2-0, on Sunday. Cornell (5-5, 0-2 Ivy) continued its resurgence this season after finishing last year 1-13-1, 0-7 in the Ivy League.
Despite its success in non-conference play in 2010, the Red has struggled against Ivy opponents. After scoring just two goals all of last season against Ivy foes, Cornell has been shut-out so far in conference play. The increased level of competition and intensity has given the Red problems.
“The Ivy League, for women’s soccer, is one of the 12 best conferences in the country,” said head coach Danielle LaRoche. “The level of play is just a little bit higher and more intense, and I think we have a hard time adjusting.”
The Quakers outshot the Red, 17-6, and were able to capitalize on poor clearances by the Red back line. The first Cornell goals both occurred after failed clearances in the penalty box. In the eighth minute, the Red cleared the ball off a corner kick directly to a Penn player, who slipped it past keeper Megan Bartlett. The second goal happened in similar fashion after a failed clearance in the 22nd minute. Penn finished off the scoring in the second half off a cross that found a Penn player by herself at the backpost.
“It was early mistakes that cost us — poor clearing, poor marking,” LaRoche said. “And when you give up early goals in a game against an Ivy League opponent they basically smother you in the water and come after you.”
The Red rebounded in outstanding fashion against Colgate on Sunday. Junior Brook Chang found the net in the 25th minute for her team-leading fourth goal of the season after freshman Rachel Nichols found a streaking Caedran Harvey on a through ball. Harvey crossed it into Chang for the assist.
“Hannah [Labide] won the ball in the midfield and played me a great ball,” Nichols said. “I was able to dribble down the line and find Caedran, who made a great run. She played the ball into Brooke, who was able to finish.”
Maneesha Chitivanis tacked on a second-half goal with a left-footed shot that beat the Colgate keeper at the near post. Xandra Hompe tallied the assist.
While the Red has been successful in non-conference play thus far, it is still looking to improve in Ivy League matches. Under LaRoche, who is in her fourth season, the team is just 1-22 against Ivy rivals. One of the problems, according to LaRoche, has been the inexperience of the young team.
“It’s a little hard for those younger players to understand what it means when you step on a field against an Ivy League opponent. A lot of other Ivy teams have a ton of experience and leadership. Part of it is mentality and part of it is making those young silly mistakes that other teams capitalize on.”
New players often have trouble adjusting to the speed and intensity of the college game. Cornell will depend on its younger players to develop in a hurry, as the Red has only two seniors on the team.
“The pace is a lot faster and everything is just more aggressive and more intense,” Nichols said. “It helps to listen to the upperclassmen and not to get down and frustrated if I make a mistake.”
Nichols has been one freshman who has played extremely well. The midfielder is tied for third on the team with six points, having tallied one goal and four assists so far.
“Rachel Nichols is amazing for her size,” LaRoche said. “She is one of the most technical players I’ve seen in a long time. She has a great touch, so when the ball comes into her she can clean it up nice and easily and she has great vision for finding people’s feet. From the first time I ever saw her play in club I knew she was someone who could come in and set us up for scoring goals.”
This week Cornell will work on adjusting to the heavy pressure opposing forwards in the Ivy League often put on the back line. Pressure from Penn and Columbia attackers resulted in several clearance mistakes that led to goals.
“Being under the attacking pressure that Ivy League opponents provide has really made us struggle since we’ve had a hard time replicating that pressure in practice,” LaRoche said. “This week one of the things we’re going to work on is to have our attacking side press, press, press our defensive side so we can replicate what some of these Ivy opponents look like.”
Original Author: Jimmy Xi