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After a fourth-place finish in the Ivy League last season, the field hockey team is looking to make significant strides in 2017, with much of the same squad that won 10 games last season returning this year.
The team lost just three seniors to graduation, and this fall’s group will feature the top two goal scorers from last year, in senior forwards Krysten Mayers and Katie Carlson. Starting goalkeeper Kelly Johnson is also back in net.
“Our experience has helped us a lot in the early going,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook. “We have a core group of kids that have done a really solid job. It doesn’t feel like we are starting from ground zero, but instead, we are just building off of where we left off last season.”
Captains Sam McIlwrick and Isabel Josephs will anchor the Red’s defense.
“We have strong leadership coming from throughout this team,” McIlwrick said. “It is not just coming from the captains or the senior class, but everyone who has been on the team for at least one year has been leading in some form.”
After closing out the 2016 campaign on a high note — winning its last four games, three of which were in the Ivy League — the Red is hoping to carry that same momentum into this year. But despite many familiar faces, the Red must rely on some key underclassmen, including freshmen midfielder Taylor Gladd and forward Juliana Tardif, each of whom Hornibrook expects to be crucial to the team’s success.
The Red will open its season Friday when it hosts Ohio University at 5 p.m. Last season, Cornell defeated the Bobcats 2-1.
“Early in the season, there is not really a big body of work by any team in order to make a lot of determinations, so what we are really doing heading into the game against Ohio is focusing on our team,” Hornibrook said of the upcoming matchup. “I think that we are all just really looking forward to hearing that initial whistle blow, and to keep progressing, as we have over the past few weeks.”
The team’s second game against Bucknell Sunday is one that is especially important for the team, as the Red will hold a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
In 2005, sophomore midfielder Maddy Conklin was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, and in 2008, Conklin had her wish of surfing in Hawaii granted by the foundation. So, throughout high school and now college, she has held fundraisers to benefit Make-A-Wish so that others could have their wishes granted as well.
“Since I had my wish granted, I have been very involved in the charity, because without them, my wish was an opportunity that otherwise never would have happened,” Conklin said. “I am excited to see the turnout this weekend, and I hope that for as long as I am here, we can have more events such as this one.”
After opening with six non-conference matchups, the Red will begin its Ivy-slate Sept. 23, when it travels to Penn. But the players will try to treat every game just as seriously.
“We plan to go into every game treating it like we are playing our hardest opponent; we want to set the standard each game and walk off the field feeling like we played to the best of our abilities,” Carlson said. “The score is just a number, so the main aspect we can control is the effort and work we put into each game, and then the results will follow.”
With its talent, experience and mindset, the team believes strongly in its chance of winning the Ivy League and making an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
“We have some high expectations this year, as our goal is to make it to the NCAA tournament,” Carlson said. “We want Cornell field hockey to continue improving every year, so we want to keep raising the bar for future players and maintain a team atmosphere that people want to be a part of.”