March 28, 2011

Despite Split Weekend, Red Shows Determination

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The women’s lacrosse team spent spring break on the road, traveling to Maryland, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.  The Red finished the weekend with mixed results — beating No. 17 Notre Dame, 6-5, before falling to No. 5 North Carolina, 14-5, and No. 4 Penn, 10-6.

“We look for spring break as an opportunity to bond together as a team,” said head coach Jenny Graap ’86. “We spend a lot of time together, traveling and practicing … and we get to really focus on lacrosse without the academic stress.”

“We had three top 20 teams to play,” said tri-captain and junior defenseman Cacki Helmer. “In the past we’ve struggled over break and this year we really improved on that side of it.”

For the past few years, the Red has not been able to claim any victories during spring break, so the win against Notre Dame (3-4) on Sunday, March 20, was huge.

“Our first game against Notre Dame in Baltimore was a phenomenal game — we had a great crowd,” Graap said.

The Red was down, 4-0, at the end of the first half, but proceeded to notch four goals in the second half before heading into overtime with the tied score.  The two teams remained at stalemate throughout the first period of a three-minute overtime, but in the second half Notre Dame was able to land a goal. With less than 30 seconds remaining in overtime, junior attacker Olivia Knotts was able to tie up the game once more, 5-5.

At this point in the game, the Red was forced into sudden death double overtime against Notre Dame. Junior attacker and tri-captain Jessi Steinberg — the current Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week — was able to find a spot in the Irish’s net and scored the game winner off of an assist from junior midfielder Katie Kirk. Notre Dame called for a stick check against Steinberg; however, Cornell was ultimately awarded the double overtime win, 6-5.

“It was a tremendous feeling — to win in double overtime was exciting,” Graap said. “We really fought to the end to earn that victory… it was a great team effort all over the field with a lot of players contributing and a wonderful way to start spring break.”

“The Notre Dame game was great to finally prove to other people and ourselves that we can play at that level with top ten teams,” said sophomore midfielder/defenseman Kate Ivory.

“We felt confident that we could win the game and there was never any doubt in our mind,” Helmer added.

After pulling out the impressive win against the Irish, Cornell hit the road — travelling to Chapel Hill, N.C., to take on North Carolina (8-2) on Wednesday, March 23.

“We faced a talented, fast team,” Graap said. “UNC controlled the game … we had some nice opportunities, but we got back on our heels and got away from our game plan. I think there was a good amount of frustration on our team in that we didn’t perform to the level we wanted, and we lost some confidence on the field.”

The Red started out with ten minutes of solid play, but then lost its momentum and unfortunately was never able to recover — ending the game against UNC, 5-14.

After the upsetting loss, the team took to the road again, this time heading to Philadelphia, Pa., for a crucial matchup against Penn (7-1, 3-0 Ivy League), who had also lost their midweek game. Having lost to Harvard in the beginning of the season, the Red needed this game to improve its Ivy League standing.

“There was tremendous play from Cornell but not a consistent 60 minutes — we had high highs and low lows,” Graap said. “We got down at the beginning of the game, 5-0, but we showed a lot of resiliency.”

The team would get within one goal of Penn more than once, but was never able to even the score. In the final minutes of the game Penn held possession and was able to stretch out Cornell’s defense — resulting in a multiple goal lead, 6-10.

“Penn was a very close game — the score doesn’t reflect how close of a game it was,” Ivory said. “We really stuck with them … looking back we should have won that game.”

“She had an outstanding day and was working really hard,” Graap said of Ivory’s particularly good performance against Penn, where the sophomore lead the team in ground balls.

Senior attacker and tri-captain Libby Johnson once again proved herself to be a confident leader on offense — contributing multiple assists and a nice goal against Penn. Also in the net, junior goalkeeper Kyla Dambach saw a lot of shots throughout the week and was able to rise to the challenge before her.

“Our goalkeeper had an outstanding spring break,” Graap said. “In all three games she showed incredible improvement.”

“We’re getting on track,” Ivory said. “We’ve learned from all of the losses — this break was definitely a pivotal moment in the season.”

“The good news for Cornell is that we never give up,” Graap said. “I’m proud of the players and we hope for improved results as the season goes on.”

Original Author: Rebecca Velez