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The preseason for Cornell women’s soccer has been riddled with changes to the team and coaching staff, all in preparation for redemption this upcoming season.
Throughout the 2016-2017 season, the Red continually experienced setbacks with a schedule that featured fierce competition, including Rutgers, which was ranked No. 21 by the end of last year. This led to an overall record of 5-9-2, featuring league wins against Yale and Princeton, but not enough to lead the Red to an overall successful season.
Since then, a new head coach has taken the helm to potentially give the program a boost.
Dwight Hornibrook made the transition from an assistant coach to head coach this past season after the resignation of Patrick Farmer.
“It’s actually a more comfortable place for me, in a coaching role,” Hornibrook said in his new office recently. Now I’m not just giving suggestions, I have to make the decisions. It does put a little more pressure on me, because, obviously I’m in charge and the results fall on my shoulders, but I think, because of the relationships I’ve had with the players … I think we’re in a good place and have a good dialogue.”
In addition to coaching, the team itself has seen changes since last season. Seven student-athletes have graduated, carving out nearly a quarter of the team. They’ve been replaced with a new recruiting class of nine — eight freshmen and one transfer — and the captaincy has been passed onto defenders Kaylee Fitzgerald and Whitney Farber, both seniors.
“With the change in coaching staff and a graduating senior class, kind of the whole team dynamic changed and I feel like we have a much closer team,” Fitzgerald said. “Hopefully that will show on the field.”
Although the team has only been training for a few weeks, Farber said that she has been able to see a difference in the team’s gameplay.
“You can just see how the mentality and how people are just happy to be there,” she said. “There’s a lot of excitement about this season moving forward and just the opportunities we have this season to do something big in the Ivy League.”
The important facet that both the captains and the coaches have been focusing on is that, although many important players graduated last year, the Red still has a solid core of returning players to rely on. This core will be supplemented by new players ready to accept new roles on the field.
“There were a lot of roles that were solidified. … Now that [Farmer] has left, we have new people, other spots have opened up,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s kind of like anybody’s game for a lot of positions, which has given the team in general just a much more competitive spirit in practice, … there isn’t as much complacency, [and] people are working to get starting spots.”
But there has been the need for adjustment on the part of the players, mainly due to Hornibrook moving into the head coach position. The new class of players for Cornell were recruited and vetted by former head coach Farmer, meaning that they have had to adapt to a slightly different coaching style than what they were expecting.
However, Hornibrook doesn’t seem too concerned by his switch in roles.
“The impact [for the new players] is ‘Oh my gosh, I’m a freshman at Cornell and i’m scared to death,’” Hornibrook said. “All over the world, every fall, there’s millions of scared kids going to college — our job is to help them feel relaxed and comfortable and develop some confidence in that. … We’re you’re new family.”
This new squad has been practicing with some preseason matches, but will see its first official contest on the road against regional rival Syracuse on Thursday, Aug. 31.