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Coming into the season with an experienced core of upperclassmen, the Cornell field hockey team was expected to compete for an Ivy League crown, and the team got off on the right track by winning each its first two games in nail-biting fashion.
In its season-opener on Friday, Cornell (2-0) defeated Ohio 1-0, then just 48-hours later, the Red played an eerily similar game, moving past Bucknell by the same score.
“We are thrilled to be 2-0, but we all know that there is plenty for us to work on,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook. “However, I would much rather be working on our issues with two wins, as opposed to starting out slower.”
Against the Bobcats (1-2), the Red took an early lead after a goal by junior midfielder Gabby DePetro, the only goal of the game. Both defenses were stingy throughout, and despite a relatively poorly played game, the Red exited its home opener with a narrow margin.
In Sunday’s matchup against Bucknell (1-3), where the Red held a fundraising event for the Make-A-Wish foundation, the Red used a similar formula to edge the Bison. Junior midfielder Kirsten Pienaar’s second half goal, along with a couple of clutch saves from sophomore goalkeeper Maddie Henry, clinched Cornell’s second win of the weekend.
The Red utilized two goalkeepers in each game, with senior Kelly Johnson starting and Henry taking over for the second half. Neither goalie has been significantly challenged yet, as Ohio and Bucknell combined for just four shots on goal in the two games.
“We have two starting caliber goalies, and both of them have played extremely well so far,” Hornibrook said. “In my opinion, they are the best tandem in the Ivy League.”
Hornibrook hinted that the two will continue to split time for the foreseeable future.
“The two goalies have been working really well together, and they have very distinct styles,” Hornibrook said. “They have definitely both gained experience during their time here, so we are very happy with how both of them played in the first two games.”
The Red will look to pick up two more wins this weekend, as it travels to Vermont for a matchup with the Catamounts on Saturday. Cornell will finish its two-game road stint when it faces Maine on Sunday.
“In our next couple of games, we need to focus on our team play and connecting with each other,” said senior captain Sam McIlwrick.
Last season, the Red defeated Vermont 4-1, and while the Red and Black Bears did not meet last year, Cornell was victorious against Maine in 2015. The Catamounts finished the 2016 campaign with no conference victories, while the Black Bears, who finished league play 6-2, were knocked out of the America East Tournament by the University of California, Berkeley.
“We are looking forward to playing two more really good teams this weekend,” Hornibrook said. “I am hoping that we can continue playing solid defense, and if we can improve the attack side of the ball this weekend, I like our chances.”