September 8, 2011

FIELD HOCKEY | Squad Hits Road for Tournament in Vermont

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This weekend, the field hockey team hits the road for Burlington, Vt., the destination of its next two games. The Red (2-0) will be in the Green Mountain State to participate in the Catamount Classic tournament hosted by the University of Vermont (2-2). Saturday the Red will face its host at 2 p.m., followed by a game the next day at 12 p.m. against Maine (4-1).

Head coach Donna Hornibrook believes Vermont will be a good early season, non-conference matchup for her team.

“[Vermont’s] last couple of games have been pretty tight — some [in] overtime,” she said. “They’ve played a couple of really good teams in Boston College and UMass earlier in the season, so we know it’s going to be a tough challenge for us. They tend to move the ball really well from what I’ve heard of them and seen of them.”

The Catamounts started their season with two consecutive home losses, including one against No. 10 Boston College; however, since that rocky start Vermont has turned things around, winning two consecutive games on the road, with identical scores of 2-1 and the last win coming in overtime.

Maine, which currently ranks just shy of the Top-20 teams in the nation, will likely pose a greater challenge to the Red.

“Maine, a pretty highly skilled team, has some really good, dangerous skill players on their penalty corner unit,” Hornibrook said. “I think they’ll be a good match up for us — knowing where we are so early in the season, it’s going to take a really good performance to be successful.”

The Black Bears have only dropped one game this season, at the hands of No. 18 Northeastern, while boasting four victories in overtime, including one agasinst Boston College.

Maine’s offense is stacking up to be a formidable challenge for the Red. The Black Bears are averaging 5.6 goals per game this season, compared to the Red’s 2.0, and their Top-3 scorers from last season all return this year. That trio includes senior forward Kelly Newton — the 2010 America East Offensive Player of the Year, who was ninth in the nation in scoring — and goalkeeper Brittany Fleck, who had the second best save percentage in the nation at .807.

Among some of the things that the Red has been working on this week in preparation for a difficult series of games is ball movement and defense — especially individual defending on the press, according to Hornibrook.

“We’re working on trying to move the ball quicker [with] better vision off the ball so that we can think a couple of passes ahead rather than thinking about what’s the next move,” she said.

Senior co-captain and goalkeeper Alex Botte reiterated the emphasis on defense.

“We’ve been working on our defense throughout the field and working the ball out of the back,” she said. “Lateral ball movement is also something we’ve been focusing on this week.”

Botte, an All-Ivy first-team member last season, did not spend any time in goal last weekend. According to her coach, she was “a little bit banged up” and in need of some rest. Botte agreed she could use some down time, but said she will be ready to go this weekend.

Although Hornibrook has not yet determined who will start in goal for the tournament, Cornell looks to be in good hands whether it is Botte or sophomore Carolyn Horner guarding the net.

Horner, who only played nine minutes last season, provided such an impressive performance last weekend that she was named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The sophomore posted a shutout against Villanova and allowed only two goals to Lock Haven.

Botte said she was thrilled that Horner was recognized for all the hard work she put into the game since last season. Horner responded with surprise to being awarded the honor.

“It’s exciting to see a Big Red player get that award the first weekend,” Horner said. “I think it shows a lot for the rest [of the] season to come.”

Hornibrook has been very happy with the poise Horner has shown in goal as well as the keeper’s ability to communicate effectively with the defense. The coach believes that Botte and Horner combine to make one of the best goalie combinations.

“We feel like we’ve got two really quality goalies,” she said. “On any given day, either one of them can get the job done.”

Original Author: Brian Bencomo