After a win against Rutgers two weeks ago, the Red (2-0, 1-0 Ivy League) went into Cambridge looking for its first conference victory. The team came out of the gates firing on all cylinders and took an early 5-1 lead over the Crimson (1-1, 0-1). Senior co-captain and midfielder Shannon McCugh scored two of those first five goals. The Red was able to keep Harvard out of the net in large part because of the team’s solid defense. According to head coach Jenny Graap, senior co-captain and defender Cacki Helmer leads the defense.“Cacki has just been outstanding in our first two games, handling tough mark-ups … I can’t say enough about her ability to lead and keep the back unit strong,” she said. “Around Cacki we have seniors Ali O’Neal and Beth Halayko. Those three senior line defenders are playing really well.”When Harvard started to pick up momentum with three straight goals, Cornell immediately squelched the run by going on a 4-0 tear of its own.The Red then kept the Crimson threat at bay for the rest of the game, and when the final whistle blew the scoreboard read 12-6. The Red out shot Harvard 33-18. Spearheading the offensive attack this season is senior co-captain and attacker Jessi Steinberg who, according to Graap, “is a really strong player with great stick skills. Her known presence in the Ivy League has allowed her to free up some of her teammates in good ways.”“I think that this year more than ever, it’s really great that everyone coming into the attack is and has been a threat in the past few games,” Steinberg said. “It’s really helpful to know that everyone can put the ball into the net with skill.”Adding to the offense on Saturday was sophomore attacker Amanda D’Amico, who scored a hat-trick in the game, narrowly missing a fourth goal on a controversial call by the officials in which the ball bounced in and out of the net quickly with no goal called. “She really exploded and played great,” Graap said. “With the ability to play both midfield and line-attacker, she’s very flexible and just had some great shots.”On the defensive end, the Red caused 12 Harvard turnovers and snatched 15 groundballs, compared to Harvard’s 11.“I think all of our defenders and midfielders did an awesome job with those hustle plays,” Steinberg said. “It just shows that everyone on the team has everyone else’s back which allows us to take those risks without worrying.” “Our team really bonds around the hard work we have put in,” Graap added. “It is nice to see it come together against Harvard, and it is early in the season, and when we are fortunate enough to have those statistical advantages it is really nice. But it does not mean that we have played perfectly or we played the best lacrosse that we are going to play in 2012. I think it’s still early, we had a little bit of luck on our side.”Senior goalie Kyla Dambach anchored the Red with 4 saves and 6 goals allowed. According to Steinberg, Dambach’s leadership role from the back line also proved to be important.“Kyla played amazing. She really is very solid back [in net],” she said. “Not only does she come up with big saves when we need her to but she is a crucial part of the defense by communicating to everyone else.”Off to a 2-0 start, the team looks to extend its winning streak when it travels to face Colgate on Wednesday. According to Graap, with a senior heavy team this year, the Red is poised for a successful season, but at the same time needs to provide the underclassmen with the benefit of the seniors’ experience. “We want these nine seniors to be peaking and playing their best in their final seasons at Cornell, but we definitely need them to help carry on the Cornell tradition and mentor the younger players in the program,” Graap said.
Original Author: Shayan Salam