October 12, 2011

FIELD HOCKEY | Cornell Offense Erupts in Two Wins

Print More

A resurgent offense carried the Red (5-6, 0-3 Ivy) to back-to-back non-conference victories during Fall Break. The team defeated Lehigh (3-11) on the road, 4-3, on Sunday, and topped Bucknell (4-8), 3-1, at Marsha Dodson Field on Tuesday.

The consecutive victories were the first string of wins since the team won its first two games of the season; in between was a stretch of six losses in seven games. The Red scored more goals in the two wins over the weekend (7) than during its previous seven games (5).

One of the keys to the two victories was the Red’s ability to control the game from the start, something senior goalkeeper and co-captain Alex Botte has stresse before.

“[In] these two games, we’ve really gone out and controlled the game and made the other team react to how we play instead of the other way around. I think that’s crucial,” she said.

“I felt like we were really setting the tone today,” added senior forward and co-captain Olivia Boyd after the Bucknell game. “One of our problems in the beginning of the season was letting other teams set the tone. I felt like today we came out and wanted the win … we weren’t letting their style of play intimidate us,” she said.

The team put forth a strong effort during the first 15 minutes of the Lehigh game; inn fact, the Red posted the game’s first six shots, four of which were on goal. Freshman forward Katherine Stone found the back of the net off a penalty corner on one of these shots to put the Red up, 1-0. But the Mountain Hawks went into halftime with the lead, 2-1, as they scored two goals off penalty corners late in the first half.

The back-and-forth affair continued in the second half. Sophomore forward Hannah Balleza found the back of the net almost fifteen minutes into the second half to tie the score. Fewer than five minutes later, Lehigh went up, 3-2. Then, with under ten minutes to go in the game, sophomore forward Brittany Thompson, who had assisted each of the Red’s previous two goals, netted her own goal to even the score again. Two minutes later, freshman back Ann DiPastina scored what would prove to be the winning goal.

Cornell was led by its captains against Bucknell. Boyd put the Red on the scoreboard first for the second consecutive game in her return to the field after ten days. Botte made four saves and allowed only one goal to earn the win.

Balleza continued her consistent offensive production, scoring again almost 15 minutes into the second half to put the team up, 2-0. It was her sixth goal of the season, which leads the team.

The Bison made the score 2-1 with a goal in the 57th minute of play, but sophomore midfielder Mallory Bannon put the game out of reach by executing on a penalty shot with just under ten minutes to go in the game.

The Red’s offensive resurgence is a good sign for a team that holds a 40-1 record under head coach Donna Hornibrook when scoring at least three goals in a game. Scoring first is also critical — the club improved to 58-8 under Hornibrook when scoring first.

Hornibrook believes the Red is clicking on offense due to the implementation of tactics the team had been working on during practice.

“I just think we’re learning a lot. We’ve had a steep learning curve … you can’t underestimate how many new people are in new positions,” she said. “As much as you want to learn everything overnight, it just doesn’t happen like that and I think things are just starting to come together.”

Boyd points out that the team is now getting comfortable together, which also accounts for the recent strong play.

“The team is becoming more comfortable together. We’re definitely becoming closer on and off the field. I feel like all the time we’ve been spending together over Fall Break has really been helping us get more comfortable with each other,” she said.

Hornibrook is also optimistic that getting healthy will ensure that the team continues to do well. Boyd was back against Bucknell, and Hornibrook expects junior forward Kat DiPastina to return this weekend.

The Red hosts Harvard (5-6, 2-1 Ivy) on Saturday and Georgetown (2-11) on Sunday, both at noon.

Much like Cornell, the Hoyas have struggled to score this season. The Crimson, despite not putting up spectacular offensive numbers, will likely be a more formidable opponent because of the intensity surrounding an Ivy League matchup. Cornell will look to notch its first conference win of the season against a team tied for second in the league with a 2-1 conference record.

Original Author: Brian Bencomo