With the 2016 field hockey season fast approaching, Cornell is welcoming back a strong core of returning players, as well as a competitive freshman class looking to gain footing in a talented line-up.
“I think the returning players are more experienced and more mature,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook.
Cornell’s top goal scorer from last season, junior forward Krysten Mayers, will lead an offense with high expectations.
Mayers will join senior forward Katy Weeks, who also looks to continue an impressive Cornell career. Weeks was a facilitator upfront last season, notching eight goals and five assists.
“Katy Weeks is a dominant player,” Hornibrook said. “Her passion and competitiveness has set a tone for this team.”
Sophomore midfielder Isabel Siergiej, who had a breakout season as a freshman with five goals and 12 assists, should play a huge role in the offense this season and could develop into one of the best players in the conference.
Junior Sam McIlwrick, who competed for the Canadian under-21 team at the Junior Pan-Am Games, will also bolster a talented midfield.
While offense is the strength of this current roster, Hornibrook said she believes junior goalkeeper Kelly Johnson can be one of the best goalkeepers in the country when she is playing at her best.
“If we continue to progress like we did last then I think we have the potential for a really solid season,” Hornibrook said.
Of course, the team’s ultimate goal will be contending for an Ivy League title. The Red finished third in the Ivy League last year with a 5-2 record. Still, with the season yet to begin, the players are solely focused on improving each day.
Once the season starts, the Red will not get hung up on title expectations.
“Our motto has always been to take one game at a time,” Hornibrook said.
Hornibrook also stressed the importance of putting in the early season work and establishing a strong commitment to practice. Cornell’s returning players have made this clear to the freshman class.
“Our upperclassmen are doing a great job of setting the standard and helping our freshman understand what that standard is,” Hornibrook said.
Even with a roster full of experience, there are starting spots in the line-up to be lost and won. The coaching staff expects freshman players to contribute to the team.
“Our philosophy with our freshman is that we try to get them integrated as soon as possible,” Hornibrook said.
Hornibrook said she is impressed with what she has seen so far, noting that the performance from the class has been at its best in recent days.
Among the freshmen, midfielder Rose Gorski has stood out in practice.
“Rose Gorski has stepped in right away,” Hornibrook said. “Her communication and poise for a freshman is really good.”
With that said, every player, not just the freshmen, has much to work on in the preseason, according to Hornibrook.
The Red will start the season with six non-conference games, which will allow the coaching staff plenty of time to solidify the lineup before heading into Ivy play.
“It’s really about using [these games] as an opportunity to see where we are and see where we are going,” Hornibrook said. “We’ll be looking at people in different positions.”
Cornell opens its season at home against Colgate on September 3.