Dana Daniels | Sun Staff Photographer

The Red's defense ranks sixth in the nation in goals allowed per game.

April 27, 2016

Defense Propels Cornell Women’s Lacrosse to Cusp of Ivy League Title

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Fourteen games into the season and the Red is rolling through what could be one of the greatest seasons in recent memory for the program.

The Red won eight straight games to start the season and set the record for the best start to a season in history; now through 14 games the women have lost only three games. Lead by an outstanding senior class headed by senior co-captains Brittany Marriott and Emily Tripodi, the Red has been able to achieve at a high level all spring, and could be poised to achieve the team’s eventual goal of an Ivy League championship.

On offense, the team is led by Tripodi, a senior who managed to carve her own place in Cornell history this year by earning the all-time record for assists in Cornell’s women’s lacrosse program history. She currently has 107 assists on record and is one of the leading contributors to the team’s offense in every game.

Along with Tripodi, one of the most dangerous parts of the Red’s potent offense has been its balance. Cornell has been remarkably balanced this season; seven players have scored more 18 or more points over the course of the year, including junior Catherine Ellis, senior Olivia Mattyasovszky, junior Kristy Gilbert and sophomores Taylor Reed and Joey Coffy.

“Our team’s morale has been amazing this entire season. We’re incredibly close and we rely on that dynamic to get us excited to play each game and to keep our energy up to play the full sixty minutes,” said Mattyasovszky, who is also a staff writer for The Sun.

The Red’s balanced, high-powered offense has been pivotal this season as the women started out the season strong. Cornell has managed to defeat all but one of its Ivy League opponents. The lone defeat was a heart­breaking loss to Prince­ton, the only remain­ing undefeated team in Ivy play.

Undefeated until spring break, the Red dropped its first game of the season to the No. 1 team in the nation, Maryland. The tough loss to the Terrapins — who remain undefeated at this point in the season — gave the team some great takeaways, according to head coach Jenny Graap ’86.

“We learned a lot competing against the two-time defending national champs,” Graap said. “Maryland was so fast and so skilled, they demonstrated clearly what a top D.I. team looks like, and we needed to experience the 60 minute on the field battle against the best in the country.”

The nine goals scored by the Red against the Terrapins tied the most scored against them at that point in the season. Players on the team agreed with their coach’s takeaways from the matchup against the Terrapins.

“Even though we lost to Maryland by eight goals, our team felt like we put up a great fight and it taught us that we can hang with the top teams in the country,” Marriott said.

Aside from Marriott on defense, the Red is anchored by junior goaltender Renee Poullott and Catie Smith. Poullott recently won her second Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week award, an honor that Smith also earned earlier in the year.

“Catie Smith has been having an All-American season on defense, and we rely on her so much to get caused turnovers and shut down opponents’ top players,” Mattyasovszky said.

In the cage, Poullott is also having a nationally great season; she ranks fifth nationally in average goals-against at 6.57. Yet despite her success, the junior is quick to give credit to the entire team for her own performance.

“This season my teammates have made my job as a goalie very easy. Our attackers have done a fantastic job pressuring other teams and have been able to come up with a lot of caused turnovers in the ride,” said Poullott. “We pride ourselves on having a very strong defensive unit that other teams are not able to easily get through. Ulti­mately, our midfielders and line defenders have limited our opponents shooting opportunities to weak shots from very low angles.”

Although the Red lost its matchup against Maryland, the Red bounced back in full force against Dartmouth, dominating the Ivy foe, 12-5.web35

“Dartmouth is one of our team’s biggest rivals so everyone gets really fired up to play them. We were confident about how we stacked up against the Big Green even coming off our Maryland loss,” Coffy said. “Although every game we play is important, there is definitely more emphasis and on competing strongly in our conference, so we did not take this game lightly. Fortunately, we came out with the win, which I believe was well earned.”

Over the course of the season so far, the Red have faced off against five Ivy League opponents, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, Princeton and most recently, Harvard.

Cornell has managed to defeat all of those opponents save for the Tigers and this has the Red in a strong position as the season begins to round down.

“We set a lofty goal of winning the conference and we still have a long way to go,” Mattyasovszky said. “Our [two] conference games left are against tough opponents, but we are still confident our goal is completely within reach. We are starting to get into a groove offensively, and our defense is only getting better and better with each game.”

As the regular season comes to a close, the women’s lacrosse team has just one game left, a clash against Penn.web19

“Our schedule was definitely a factor in us going 8-0 to start the season; the most competitive teams on our schedule are all in the second half,” Mat­tyasovszky said. “That being said, we’ve work­ed incredibly hard and it’s starting to show with our offensive chemistry and the continued brilliance of our defense. We’re so, so excited to get a chance to prove to the lacrosse world that we are a top team and can play with any team in the Top-20.”

Following the Penn game, the Red will has the Ivy League championship, a four-team playoff hosted by the top team in the league. Depending on the results from the rest of the season, Cornell could continue its year in the national tournament.

“Each one is going to be a fight, but we know that when we play our best, we can beat anyone,” Mattyasovszky said.