The season-long struggles continued for the Cornell women’s soccer team (2-8-3, 0-4-2 Ivy) this Saturday in its penultimate game of the season, an away game against Princeton (13-2, 5-1). The Red fell 2-0 to the Tigers, succumbing once again to the scoring drought that has plagued its 2017 season.
Giving up two goals in the first half, the team’s 398-minute road shutout streak came to an end — something that had served as a testament to its greatest strength: a nearly flawless defensive line. On par with her performances throughout the season, junior goalkeeper Meghan Kennedy, who leads the league in saves per game, made a career-high 11.
“I haven’t seen a better goalkeeper in the Ivy League this year,” said head coach Dwight Hornibrook.
However, even Kennedy at her best was not able to stifle Princeton’s elite offense that has guided the team to its current No. 15 national ranking (No. 7 in the RPI). The Tigers’ Mimi Asom was at least partially responsible for both of her team’s two goals during the opening half of the game — first by setting up teammate Vanessa Gregoire for the first Tiger goal, and then following up with a score of her own off a penalty kick with just 34 seconds left in the half.
These two goals came in quick succession after the Red’s critical senior midfielder Kat Weikert was taken out of the game due to a hip injury.
“The old saying in soccer is ‘The game is won and lost in midfield’ because it’s that transition point between defending and attacking, so when [Weikert] went down, it hurt our whole team,” Hornibrook said.
With Weikert down and Princeton up 2-0, the Red convened at halftime with frustrations running high.
“I am usually pretty positive at halftime, trying to focus on what we’ve done well,” Hornibrook said, “But I was a bit more negative at the half because I was disappointed with the defensive work that had been done.”
Kennedy, rolling with the punches, took the added pressure as an incentive to up her game.
“There is definitely a little more pressure on the defenders and me to be solid, but I don’t think it changes the way we play, more of an extra motivation,” Kennedy said. “At halftime, we were frustrated with giving up two goals, but continued to focus on filling the gaps in our defense to avoid giving up any more chances.”
Those gaps were effectively filled, and the Red shutout the Tigers for the remainder of the game. But it was too late. Without the ability to generate much on offense, Cornell could do nothing more than minimize the damage already done and went on to lose 2-0.
With only one game left to play, the Red looks to wrap up its season this weekend on a positive note. The group will travel to Hanover to take on Dartmouth, still in search of those elusive scoring opportunities. The Red has scored just one single goal in six Ivy League games this season, seeing a number of 0-0 draws.
Despite the fact that its record does not reflect the amount of hard work the team has put in this season, the players have been able to maintain a positive outlook, not letting frustration and defeat get the best of them.
“We’ve stuck to the process, and that to me is something that we can build with, something that our girls can be really proud of despite the adversity this year,” Hornibrook said. “It hasn’t gotten negative; they haven’t quit on us. They’ve just said, ‘Alright, we’re just going to go out and compete every day.’”
The Red will hope for a rerun of its final game last season, when it defeated Dartmouth 4-1, to end its similarly goal-deficient season in the win column.
“Let’s hope that the stuff that we need to beat Dartmouth, from an offensive perspective, shows up,” Hornibrook said, “and we have a repeat performance from our game against Dartmouth here last year.”