September 25, 2011

FIELD HOCKEY | Offense Struggles in Second Ivy Defeat

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For the second weekend in a row the Red (3-4, 0-2 Ivy League) suffered a tough conference loss, 3-1. Cornell lost to intrastate rival Columbia (3-4, 2-0), despite an increased level of intensity and more aggressiveness on offense.

“I feel like today we really picked up the intensity,” said senior forward/midfielder and co-captain Olivia Boyd. “In the first half I feel like it was a really evenly matched game. They were definitely a really physical team, and we tried to be tough back and play with the intensity we know we can.”

The intensity was especially evident in a late second half flourish of about 15 minutes following Columbia’s second goal. Cornell amassed all five of its penalty corners during this period, and a good chunk of the team’s 13 shots in the second half. (By comparison the team only had three in the first half). None of these second half shots, however, were converted into goals — a mixture of a failure to finish and bad luck, according to sophomore forward Hannah Balleza.

“I still think we have a lot of work to do in terms of just finishing and getting it in the goal,” she said of the team’s scoring difficulties. “Coach was just saying how it really comes down to the nitty gritty … all the small things within the circle and just like all the details we got to work on.”

Balleza, who made a penalty stroke last season against the Lions and scored the Red’s only goal earlier in the game to tie the score, 1-1, missed a penalty chance in the second half, hitting the post.

“I took most of the penalty strokes last year, and I always go to the same spot, so it wasn’t anything different,” Balleza said. “I wasn’t nervous or anything, it just unfortunately hit the post.”

In fact, the unluckiness which senior goalkeeper and co-captain Alex Botte discussed last week as contributing to the Red’s offensive struggles seemed to persist this week.

“We’ve had two weeks in a row in the second half we’ve hit the goal post in a critical moment that would have tied the game,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook. “It was unlucky. It was a great shot – we’re talking inches.”

Hornibrook, despite being dispirited by the bad luck, was happy with how aggressive the team played on offense, especially in the second half. Yet the head coach noted that the Red made some critical mistakes that contributed to the loss.

“I thought we got more pressure on the keeper, and more entries into the circle than we have in a while, so that was good,” she said. “But I thought we made some decisions that weren’t the best. The winning goal came in a situation where we were down a man – having to have a player sent off. We should be taking care of the ball, possessing the ball, not trying to take risks and play the ball hard up-field. You need space and, you know, we got counterattacked on it.”

The increased intensity and aggressiveness of the team may have cost the Red in one regard. Four players got carded, including freshman back Ann DiPastina, who received a yellow card late in the first half and was sent out of the contest, forcing the Red to play the second half down a player.

According to Botte, who felt better this week about the scoring opportunities the offense created, the intensity was nonetheless lacking in some areas.

“The ball got to the post and a girl dove to score, so I mean they wanted it. We never once dove for the ball which is unfortunate,” she said regarding Columbia’s second goal.

The Red travels to Yale this weekend for its third Ivy League contest of the season, with the schedule slating a return home to Marsha Dodson Field on  Tuesday Oct. 4 for a non-conference game against Colgate.

Boyd expressed optimism about Saturday’s matchup with the Bulldogs.

“We just kind of have to build a hunger this week for Yale. We really want it … We’re right there,” she said.

Hornibrook also believes the Red is ready to compete with the high level of play expected from its Ivy foe.

“If you look at the results — although they all haven’t gone our way — we’ve got a pretty young team, and we are in every single game,” she said. “We are competing in every single game but we just haven’t been quite good enough to make those one or two plays that change a game to give us the win.”

Original Author: Brian Bencomo