March 17, 2011

Notre Dame Leads Competition on Road Trip for Women’s Lacrosse

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The Red (2-3, 1-1 Ivy League) will spend Spring Break traveling along the East coast, facing its first challenge in Lutherville, Md. against Notre Dame (3-3) on Sunday at 12 p.m. in a neutral site matchup at St. Paul’s School. Later in the week on March 23 the Red will continue its trip to Chapel Hill, N.C. to take on North Carolina (5-2) at 6 p.m. at Fetzer Field. The Red will conclude its trip on March 27 with a game against conference rival Penn (5-0, 1-0), at 1 p.m. at Franklin Field.

Last weekend, the Red suffered a tough loss, 14-8, at Loyola, but was able to bounce back to defeat Ivy League rival Columbia, 9-7. A hat trick by junior midfielder Katie Kirk, along with two goals from senior midfielder and tri-captain Libby Johnson, enabled Cornell to defeat its conference foe.

Junior defender and tri-captain Caroline Helmer suggests that the Red has a very difficult series of games ahead, but looks forward to the experience.

“All three [teams] are extremely competitive and very disciplined. We are excited to play such high-caliber teams and to hopefully rise to the occasion,” Helmer said.

The Red will start off this Spring Break series with a challenge, against Notre Dame. The Irish currently holds a five-game winning streak over the Red, registering wins every year since 2006.

Junior attacker Maggie Tamasitis runs the Irish offense, and has already logged 22 points this season. Sophomore midfielder Jenny Granger is also a large contributor to the Irish goal count, registering 13 goals and five assists thus far and enters this weekend on a nine-game scoring streak.

When it faces the Red, Notre Dame will be riding the momentum from its most recent win, 14-5, against Boston University. Tamasitis and Kailene led the Irish attack, notching three goals and one assist apiece against the Terriers. Following a difficult loss to Ohio State last week, the Irish brought a lot of energy to the game against B.U., outshooting the Terriers, 40-16.

Sophomore midfielder Kelly Lang noted that the Red has been working hard to prepare for this tough series of games due up over break.

“UNC and Notre Dame are both really competitive programs, so those are big games for us. In preparation, we’ve been working on areas that we need to improve on from our [earlier] games. We know that Notre Dame has a fast paced team, so we need to practice [slowing] it down,” Lang said.

Next, the Red will face-off with North Carolina, a team that has had a successful season thus far. Coming off a close win against Top-10 Virginia, the Tar Heels will look to further improve their winning record when it faces Georgetown and Cornell over the break.

The Tar Heels are led in scoring by senior attacker Corey Donohoe, who has registered 20 goals and five assists only eight games into the season. Freshman Abbey Friend, whose hat trick helped propel UNC ahead of Virginia in its last game, also leads the team in points with 10 goals and two assists.

Head coach Jenny Graap explained that Cornell has been working hard in preparation for these games, and will bring a lot of talent and energy to each of them.

“We have excellent team speed and we have an offense that can generate a good number of shots,” she said. “I think in our last outing against Columbia, our defense was able to hold our opponents to fewer goals … We are a work in progress, just like every team is, as the season is progressing.”

The final game against Penn will give the Red the opportunity to improve its standing within the Ivy League against a Quakers team that currently has the highest record in the conference. Penn has defeated UNC and Harvard — two teams also on Cornell’s schedule — already in what has been an undefeated season thus far.

Coming off a close win against conference rival Harvard, 9-8, Penn will take on Yale and Johns Hopkins, before challenging the Red. The Quakers are led in points by senior attacker Guilia Giordano, whose four-point game aided in Penn’s defeat of Drexel several weeks ago. Penn’s success can also be attributed to goalie Emily Leitner, who has played in all five of Penn’s contests and has a .500 save percentage.

Graap suggests that Penn will also present a challenge to the Red.

“Penn is the highest ranked team in the Ivy League right now. For all three games, we are playing very highly ranked and nationally prominent lacrosse teams,” Graap said.

Penn will be especially aggressive in its pursuit of a win against Cornell. Following its victory over Harvard, Penn extended its 30-game Ivy League winning streak; the second longest in Ancient Eight history.

According to Helmer, the Red is not intimidated by the powerful Penn squad and plans on putting up a fight against the Quakers.

“Ivy League games are extremely important, so it feels good to have our first conference win. We have confidence going into the game against Penn,” Helmer said.

For this Spring Break tour, the team has high expectations for improvement, and is excited to play such competitive teams.

“Our goal is to play as a team. We’ve had strong individual performances in some of our first five games, but I think we want to play more as a team in all aspects of the game … [we need] a more unified team effort and a consistent 60 minutes [of play],” Graap said.

Lang also insists that this series of games over the break provides the Red with a chance to prove its true abilities.

“Our strength right now is that we have [individual] moments of excellence, but that can also be our weakness. As soon was we can … all come together as a team, we’ll be where we want to be,” Lang said.

Original Author: Alane Trafford