This post has been updated.
For an intensive, blow-by-blow recap of the loss to Princeton, click here.
Cornell women’s lacrosse knew the task at hand — maybe a little too well.
Entering Sunday’s championship matchup — which was made possible by Cornell’s downing of Harvard, 16-11, in the semifinals — Princeton boasted the highest scoring per game player in the country in Olivia Hompe, and a goalie with the fourth highest saves per game in Ellie DeGarmo. The two were at the forefront of the last contest between Cornell and Princeton, which ended as a double OT win for the Tigers, where Hompe scored four goals, and DeGarmo made 14 saves.
And in Sunday’s 12-9 title-clinching game for Princeton, the duo certainly delivered yet again. Hompe set a single game tournament record with seven goals for the Tigers, while DeGarmo, the tournament MVP, had 15 saves, allowing just two goals in the first half.
“DeGarmo with 15 saves for Princeton was a major factor,” said Cornell head coach Jenny Graap ’86. “Princeton had a big day with Hompe … We were doing the best we could to contain and try some different strategies, but she definitely had a great game.”
While the two women stuck out as key players for the Tigers, it was early woes and faults from the Cornell side that doomed the team as the game unfolded. Part of that, Graap said, was not realizing from the get-go what her team could be capable of. That will be a main focus on the team with an at-large bid to NCAAs still in play.
“This is one of the best teams I’ve ever coached here at Cornell” Graap said. “We need to impart a bit more of that confidence, bringing it right away at the opening whistle. Sometimes we analyze and question it a little bit.”
In the final game before the NCAA tournament, one would expect a team to be playing at its peak performance with plenty of in-game experience already under the belt. But for Cornell that did not seem to be the case from the early onset of the game.
The Tigers took control from the start, with a goal from Mary Kate McDonough within the first minute, followed quickly by a second Princeton goal from Elizabeth George.
Princeton set a fast pace and largely dominated ball control throughout the first half. DeGarmo let hardly anything by her, and the Red struggled to get past the Tigers’ defensive line. Cornell was completely shut out for the majority of the half until junior Ida Farinholt finally broke through to put the Red on the board, 3-1. Hompe responded with an individual three-goal run, followed by a goal from teammate Tess D’Orsi, to increase the Tigers’ lead to 7-1.
Cornell senior attacker Catherine Ellis scored the final goal of the half to bring the score to 7-2. It was the Red’s largest halftime deficit of the season.
Part of that season-high hole, Graap said, was a tough Princeton defense that forced the Red into unfavorable shots.
“In the first half we knew we weren’t taking the best shots, and we knew we had to make that adjustment, but I think we did in terms of better shots in the second half which was huge,” she said. “We were kind of forced into taking some shots in the first half that maybe weren’t the type of shots that go past [DeGarmo].”
Graap noted that another adjustment she had to make was at the faceoff circle. Farinholt began the day on the draws, but senior attacker Amie Dickson soon slid into the role, which saw more wins for the Red and thus more time with the ball.
“We tried to shake things up,” Graap said. “[Dickson] did a tremendous job. It really got us the ball quite a bit [combined with] players off the lines working a bit harder and battling more.”
The Red opened the second half with much more gusto. A goal from junior Taylor Reed came just 1:35 in, but Cornell’s momentum was slowed by three consecutive Tiger goals. Sophomore Sarah Phillips then broke the Tigers’ streak with a goal to start the Red off on a streak of its own.
Farinholt scored off an assist from Dickson, followed two minutes later by a goal from Ellis. Midway into the second half, Reed scored again, which closed the gap to 10-7.
The Cornell streak after the Princeton run brought about a huge swing in the game, which saw Cornell dominating overall play. Ellis, a senior leader on the team, noted the need to manage emotions along with keeping the foot on the pedal.
“There was a balance between pushing the offense in the second half from behind and also being smart,” she said. “We did a good job with that in the second half. We took a fast break if we had it and slowed it down if we didn’t. The mindset was just chip away, chip away, one goal at a time and we started to do that. Going forward we need to remember to do that in the first half and not just come out with that mindset in the second half.”
Cornell’s four-goal run was then cut short by Hompe’s seventh of the game. The senior’s efforts over the tournament set records in points, goals and assists.
“She is a big girl, she really pushes through you,” Cornell senior defender and Ivy Defender of the Year Catie Smith said of Hompe. “She is an awesome player, and we respect that. We tried to deny her stick the ball, but she is good and can get around. She’s obviously very successful and she had a good day.”
But following Hompe’s goal, Cornell sophomore Tomasina Leska took charge of the game with two consecutive goals to bring the Red within two. With 10 minutes to play, it looked like the women might just do it.
Leska brought Cornell within reach, but the Red was unable to close the gap, and Princeton’s George scored one last time for the Tigers to bring final score to 12-9.
“I am very proud of the Cornell effort today,” Graap said. “Really pleased with an effort by [us], and definitely the effort in the second half is what we want to see is what we want to see the whole 60 minutes.”
Cornell placed five women on the All-Tournament team: Dickson, Smith, Ellis, Reed and Phillips. The quintet put up 23 points over the tournament.
Despite the disappointment of not being able to notch a second straight Ivy League Tournament title, the Red has earned itself an at-large bid into NCAAs, and will face Notre Dame in the first round.
“We are really excited for the NCAAs, we want this bid,” Smith said. “Especially as seniors, we want to keep going as far as we can. Looking back, this one is going to hurt, but it’s only going to fuel the fire going forward.”
Sunday was the seniors’ last game on Schoellkopf, as the NCAA draw results with the Red hitting the road for NCAAs. The thought of never again playing at home did not really hit an emotional Smith nor Ellis, who hosted the first few rounds during last year’s NCAA run.
But given the team’s strong 6-1 record on the road during the regular season, Graap said before the selection she is confident with whatever cards the team is dealt.
“We travel well … [and] we had a tremendous record on the road,” Graap said before the bracket was announced. “It doesn’t matter where we are going, but hopefully we can make the best of that.”
“Every game is our last game at this point, we know that, so one thing we take a lot of pride in is giving it all and put it out on the line and just represent our great university as well as we can,” she added.