By SYDNEY ALTSCHULER
The Cornell field hockey team topped St. Joseph’s University, 4-2, in Philadelphia this past weekend to win its third consecutive contest. The Red jumped out to an early four-goal lead, then held off a late surge by SJU at the end of the second half to secure the win.
The Red will host Harvard Saturday at noon and Lehigh the following day at 1 p.m for its next contests. The squad hopes to extend its three-goal winning streak this weekend and improve its record in the Ivy and Patriot conferences.
In the SJU game, senior forward Elly Plappert got the Red on the board just four minutes into play when she converted a penalty stroke to give the Red an early lead. She continued her outstanding play with an assist to freshman Georgia Lord, extending the lead to 2-0. Lord skillfully intercepted Plappert’s shot on goal and redirected it into the net. The Red continued to capitalize on the positive momentum as freshman forward Katy Weeks netted a rebound save to cap the first half. The Red came out in the second half refusing to relinquish its impressive lead. Senior midfielder Hannah Balleza scored just under five minutes in to extend the lead 4-0.
The Hawks hustled late in the game to pick up two goals but could not make up the deficit. Junior forward Jordan Martin and junior midfielder Tori Popinko got the Hawks on the board, but the Red held the two-goal lead to snag the win. Senior goalie Carolyn Horner made three saves for the Red in her first game back from injury. The victory put Horner in 13th place for career victories, moving her into a tie for 10th place with Karen Kuhn (1975-77) for the most wins by a single goalie in Cornell history.
After the away game at SJU, the Red returns home for the game against the Crimson. Harvard leads the series record, 24-11-4, but Cornell dominated the Crimson 4-0 the last time the two squads met in 2012. Cornell also has a better overall record than Harvard this season with 6-5, while the Crimson holds 4-5. Both teams are 1-2 in the Ivy League.
The series with Harvard represents one of Cornell’s longest on-going rivalries, dating back to 1976 when the Crimson crushed the Red, 3-0, and set in motion a decade long winning streak, with exception to a lone Red victory in 1978. Head Coach Donna Hornibrook is 4-5 versus the Crimson, but since 2008, neither team has clinched on a win on home turf. On Saturday, the Red looks to change the tide and take a win on Marsha Dodsen field.
The game against the Crimson will be challenging. Last week, the Ivy opponent snatched two wins, conquering UMass-Lowell and Fairfield. Marissa Balleza, younger sister of Cornell senior Hannah Balleza, will certainly pose a threat in the contest; she leads the Crimson with four goals and is tied for a team-high nine points along with freshman Noel Painter.
“I am extremely excited to play my sister this weekend. It should be a good game especially because she and I get pretty competitive when it comes to hockey … I refuse to lose to them, especially since my younger sister is on the team,” Hannah Balleza said.
The Crimson’s goalie, Jenn Hatfield, will be difficult to overcome. She has started in all nine games and boasts a 1.77 goals-against average coupled with a .750 save percentage.
The Red will face the Lehigh Mountain Hawks the following day to cap the weekend of play. The Red leads the series record, 19-1-1, and holds the superior season record at 6-5 — the rival squad falls short with a record of 3-11. The Red has won 17 straight in the series and Hornibrook is a perfect 8-0 against the opponent.
The Red only won last year’s match by a small margin, however, capturing a 4-3 win. The Mountain Hawks ended an eight-game losing streak last week with a win against Lock Haven and may come out this weekend brimming with newfound confidence. The Hawks’ Marissa Glatt, a freshman midfielder, is a player to watch, registering 10 of the team’s 24 total goals this season. Freshman goalie Julia Ward is also a threat with a 2.96 goals-against average to go along with a .764 save percentage.
This weekend’s results will set the tone for the rest of the season. The squad has the opportunity to establish a huge winning streak. The Red has been practicing hard in anticipation of the double-header, polishing skills and strategy while targeting weaknesses to optimize results.
“As we enter the last third of our season, we have been trying to eliminate the weaknesses that have cost us games this season,” said sophomore defender Stephanie Eggertson. “Some of these are not taking opportunities in the offensive D and our short corner conversion rate. The team is really focusing on preventing these mistakes going into our double-header this weekend.”
Hornibrook is excited for this weekend of competitive play and confident the Red will perform up to its potential. She accounts much of the squad’s recent success to consistency and hard work; she also fine-tuned the Red’s game-play by emphasizing strong starts and early goals which gave the team the necessary edge in recent contests.
“All season we’ve been right there … If you look at the results, we’ve been competitive in pretty much every game,” she said. “But we’ve also been starting games much stronger by making some adjustments in terms of pre-game prep and the results are going our way. We have been getting on top of our game mentally which has allowed us to come out strong.”