Cornell women’s lacrosse will advance to the final game of the Ivy League Championship Tournament on Sunday after defeating Harvard, 16-11, in the semifinals on Friday night at Schoellkopf Field. The No. 1 seed Red will battle No. 3 seed Princeton on Sunday for the title and an automatic bid to NCAAs.
The Red held the lead against the Crimson throughout virtually the entire game, although it was challenged by a strong comeback effort by Harvard in the second half, as well as a bit of a slow start to open the game. It was the second time in less than a week that Cornell and Harvard faced off.
“We were just trying to stick to our game plan,” said senior attacker Amie Dickson. “It’s tough to beat a team twice in one week, but we wanted to kind of move a little more than we did last week and not be so stagnant.”
Dickson’s two goals and four assists for six points, as well as sophomore Sarah Phillips’ four goals, each set a single-game tournament record for the Red.
Sophomore Tomasina Leska cracked the first shot against Harvard within the first two minutes of play, giving Cornell the initial lead, but the Crimson quickly retaliated with three consecutive goals of its own. The Crimson’s streak was led by junior Julia Glynn, who would head Harvard’s scoring effort throughout the game.
Juniors Ida Farinholt and Taylor Reed turned things back around for the Red a few minutes later, each with an unassisted goal. Then a goal from senior co-captain Kristy Gilbert brought Cornell back into the lead, 4-3.
Glynn scored again, tying the game 4-4, but consecutive shots from co-captains Catherine Ellis and Gilbert set up the Red for a healthy lead through the rest of the half — a lead maintained by Phillips, who laid down another two goals before the end of the half, and Farinholt, who scored again off an assist from Leska.
Entering the second half with a 9-6 lead, the Red stole a three-goal run — Ellis, Phillips, Ellis — to widen the gap to 12-6. After another Harvard goal, Dickson and Phillips scored two more consecutive times.
Around the midpoint of the the second half, Harvard started putting together a comeback, stealing a three-goal streak to bring the score to 14-10 in a less than two minute span. The Red’s defense pushed back, and the Crimson only made it to the net one more time during the remainder of the game, while goals from Leska and Dickson brought the final score to 16-11.
“I’m very proud of the Cornell effort tonight against Harvard,” said Cornell head coach Jenny Graap ’86. “I think the Crimson played strongly, and I’m just pleased that our defense could hold really tough in the second half, when they were trying to mount a bit of a comeback.”
After proving its dominance against the highly physical Crimson — which received two yellow cards during the game — the Red will shift its focus to recovering and gearing up to face Princeton on Sunday morning in the finals. Princeton secured its spot in the finals by handily defeating Penn, 17-8, on Friday, setting a new record for goals scored in a game during the Ivy League Tournament.
“For Cornell, it’s important for us to embrace that underdog mentality,” Graap said. “We want to win and defend that Ivy Championship, but what we know is that Princeton sits ahead of us in the national rankings, so this game also has implications for the NCAA tournament.”
Princeton is currently No. 9 in the national rankings, while Cornell sits two spots back at No. 11. Defeating the Tigers is far from a long-shot for the Red, especially given the home-field advantage, but the team knows that to secure the title it will have to perform at its highest level, from the first draw to the final buzzer.
“We lost to [Princeton] in [double] overtime,” said senior defender Catie Smith, referring to the Red’s 12-11 loss to the Tigers two weeks ago. “We thought we had that game and then we couldn’t close it, so we definitely know that we can beat them, and we want to beat them.”
And for the seniors, while fortunate to be able to compete for the championship at home for a change, they know their days playing in Ithaca are limited, so taking the title once more in front of the home crowd would be priceless.
“Especially having the championship on our home-field — we know our days on Schoellkopf are limited — and as seniors we definitely want to lead the team and win a championship on our own field,” Smith said. “It means a lot to us.”
Cornell will face Princeton in the finals at 11:05 a.m. on Sunday, May 7 at Schoellkopf Field with a championship title and an automatic NCAA Tournament bid on the line.