After snow forced the postponement of its game on Saturday, the Red (7-9, 1-5 Ivy League) took the field the next afternoon in Princeton, N.J. to face the league-leading Tigers (8-7, 5-1). The reigning conference champions have been successful once again this season despite losing three players to the national team, which incidentally won gold at the Pan-American games last Friday. Despite raising its level of play to the competition, the Red lost its penultimate Ivy contest, 6-1.
“The first half — it was kind of unbelievable. We were playing the best field hockey I’ve ever seen us play before,” said senior goalkeeper and co-captain Alex Botte.
Despite recording only one shot to Princeton’s 10 and manufacturing no penalty corners to the Tigers’ four, Cornell was very much in the game and played competitively throughout the first half, according to head coach Donna Hornibrook.
The second half started off well for the Red as sophomore midfielder/back Mallory Bannon scored her third goal of the season on the team’s only penalty corner of the game to even up the score in the 14th minute of the second half. Then in a series of events that could perhaps be described as “shock and awe,” the game quickly slipped away from the Red.
Eighteen seconds after the goal, freshman forward Katherine Stone was yellow-carded and sent out of the game for five minutes for illegally playing a ball that had been whistled in Princeton’s favor. It was the second time in the game that a Cornell player was carded and sent off for five minutes. But unlike the automatic penalty that Bannon had received for playing a ball over her head with her stick in the first half, this call was controversial as it was on a play that is not considered to be very rare or egregious.
Hornibrook called the penalty “debatable” and a bit “harsh,” while Botte flatly said that it was “not a good call.” Botte questioned the officiating in general throughout the game, pointing to a goal by Princeton in the first half that was called back because the ball was apparently deflected off a player’s shin guard.
With Cornell down a player, Princeton scored a pair of goals — one approximately two minutes after Stone was sent off and another about 30 seconds after that. The Tigers added another goal less than a minute after Stone was eligible to return, taking a commanding lead, 4-1.
“I feel like we lost our focus a little bit after they got the two goals. It was a huge momentum shift … and we weren’t able to get [our focus] back,” Hornibrook said.
According to Botte, the squad became a different team after going down by two goals. The Red proceeded to surrender two more goals later in the half — both to Princeton’s Amanda Bird — in the 55th and 69th minutes.
Hornibrook was disappointed that the second yellow card prevented her squad from seeing how the Tigers would react to the pressure after the Red tied the score; however, she acknowledged that “there was a defensive breakdown that cost us the game for sure.”
The Red was especially shaky on penalty corners giving up four goals to Princeton on those opportunities. Much of this had to do with seemingly minute details such as clearing the ball, marking and even the handling of the stick in the circle. In fact, one of Princeton’s goals resulted from a deflection off a Cornell stick not angled properly. Hornibrook stressed that the team must learn to not only recognize the parts of its game that need improvement, but to actually make the appropriate adjustments in order to progress.
Up next the Red travels to Hanover, N.H. to take on Dartmouth (9-7, 4-2) on Sunday at noon for the season finale. Dartmouth boasts a powerful offense, scoring more goals this season than any other Ivy League team with the exception of Yale; however, the Green’s scoring in conference matchups is considerably lower.
The team is led by senior midfielder Kelly Hood, who has scored twice as many goals (14) as sophomore forward Hannah Balleza, the Red’s leading scorer this season. Hood recently became the Green’s all-time career leader in both goals scored and points.
“I’m excited because [Dartmouth] beat Princeton, so this is going to be a really tough game,” Botte said, reflecting on the Red’s efforts against Princeton.
Botte and senior forward and co-captain Olivia Boyd have not lost to the Green during their time at Cornell, so the goalkeeper hopes to keep that record intact on Sunday.
Original Author: Brian Bencomo