Led by a core of seniors and strong goaltending from senior Kelly Johnson and sophomore Maddie Henry, the Cornell field hockey team is poised to surpass last year’s winning percentage.
After a strong non-conference showing, which included four consecutive victories to begin the season, the Red (7-5, 1-3 Ivy) appeared to be one of the favorites to come away with the Ivy League crown, and ultimately an NCAA tournament bid.
However, a rough start to the first half of Ivy League play has hurt those chances. The squad began its league slate with losses to Penn and Columbia, and after a win over Yale on the road, the Red dropped its third Ivy contest of the year in overtime to then-No. 13 Harvard.
“Honestly, when we play well as a unit, we have a great opportunity to be successful, no matter who we play,” said head coach Donna Hornibrook. “We just have to take it one game at a time. That is the approach we have had all year, but we have just been too inconsistent.”
Throughout the season, Hornibrook has reiterated that she believes the tandem of Johnson and Henry are among the best in the country. And those two have certainly proven their coach right, combining to save nearly 80 percent of the shots they have faced. The duo has also allowed just 1.33 goals per game.
Hornibrook is most impressed with their ability to keep other teams off the board, giving the Red a real opportunity to win each night.
“Both of our goalies are phenomenal,” Hornibrook said. “I have total confidence in both of them against any opponent we play.”
Due to the effective goalie play, 10 of the 12 games the Red has played this season have been one-goal games, including each of its last five contests. The two also shut out the first three opponents they faced.
While the two had been equally splitting time in net to begin the season, Henry has effectively taken over the starting position, as injuries and setbacks have made it difficult for Johnson to see playing time.
And while defensively the team has thrived, the offense has struggled.
“I would love to see the team play cohesively, for a full 70 minutes, and hopefully the results will follow,” said senior captain Sam McILwrick. “We have had great goalkeeping throughout the season, but we need to continue to work on our team defending and attack play.”
Cornell has only been able to average 1.5 goals per game, and has yet to truly find an offensive rhythm this year.
One such bright spot, though, is senior Krysten Mayers setting the program mark in both career points (94) and goals (40) in the team’s last match against Harvard.
Overall, the team has been emphasizing its need to attempt more corners in order to promote scoring chances. However, the Red has attempted 20 fewer corners than opponents this season.
“We still need to get better at creating scoring opportunities, like getting corners and taking a lot of shots on goal,” said senior captain Isabel Josephs. “Our defense also has to find ways to prevent defensive corners, because the majority of goals scored on us have been through corners against us.”
As the team heads into its final four games of the season, three of which against Ivy League opponents, the Red will look to emphasize its attack, along with its continued strong defense.
“In our remaining three Ivy games, I want to see the team play as well as we did against Harvard,” Josephs said. “Despite the loss, we played our best game of the season and the team looked really solid — outcomes don’t define us.”