The women’s lacrosse team is set to travel to Princeton, N.J. to face the Tigers this weekend. Still smarting from the first two defeats of the season last week, the No. 18-ranked Red (6-2, 2-1 Ivy League) aims to step up its game against Princeton (4-2, 2-0) on Saturday.
“Knowing that we did not bring our best performance to the table against Notre Dame or Penn, I think the challenge for us as a team is to bring a higher level of performance against a nationally ranked opponent,” said head coach Jenny Graap ’86. “Princeton gives us that opportunity.”
The Red opened the season with a perfect 5-0 record before meeting mixed results during Spring Break. After falling to Notre Dame, 17-13, the Red defeated Jacksonville, 22-13, before giving up an early lead at Schoellkopff to lose 11-10 against Penn. Graap said she hopes the Red will take last week’s defeats as motivation to boost its game.
“I hope it’s lit a fire and that our players feel a sense that they need to raise their performance and execution in order to win games against these top teams,” she said.
According to Graap, Princeton’s tough schedule packed with tight contests against strong teams may put the Red at a slight disadvantage. Already this season, the Tigers defeated ACC powerhouse Virginia, 9-7, and are coming off a close 9-8 loss to Johns Hopkins.
“They’ve been a perennial power and are very confident,” she said. “They’re going to come in with a good amount of that experience being in tight and competitive games.”
Saturday’s game will be another of these tight contests, according to Graap. Though the Red lost to Princeton, 15-10, at home last year, she hopes her players will come in strong for a repeat of the teams’ 2010 contest.
“Two years ago when we played in New Jersey, Cornell was able to defeat the Tigers on their home field,” she said. “Many of our upperclassmen remember how great it felt to have such a huge win against Princeton on the road.”
This season, the Red has performed well on the road. Defeating Rutgers, Harvard, Colgate and Jacksonville on their home fields, the squad currently holds a 4-0 away record that it hopes to continue at Princeton’s Class of 1952 Stadium. The Tigers have only won one of their three home games, falling to both Rutgers and Duke before barely topping Virginia.
Against Princeton, Graap plans to draw on the Red’s nine seniors, who she considers crucial in leading the team to victory.
“We have a strong senior class and this year we’ve really relied on those nine women — out of only 12 athletes on the field,” she said. “They’ve been really pivotal in all of our games this year.”
In particular, Graap names senior attacker and captain Jessi Steinberg, who recently took over No. 6 on Cornell’s all-time scoring list, as a critical player. Seniors Cacki Helmer, Beth Halayko and Ali O’Neil will also be key on Saturday, but the senior that really centers the team is goalkeeper Kyla Dambach, according to Graap.
“When she plays well and when she performs strongly in the net, we’ve been able to win,” Graap said. “In games where Kyla hasn’t been able to play for the full sixty minutes, it’s changed the formula a bit.”
The caliber of the senior players is high, but Graap suggests the squad’s depth is the Red’s greatest advantage over Princeton.
“Even beyond our senior class, we have tremendous contributions coming from juniors, sophomores, and even some freshmen getting some time,” she said.
Original Author: Gina Cargas