After beginning the 2017 campaign with four consecutive victories, the 2018 rendition of the Cornell field hockey team was unable to replicate its early-season success, as it dropped its first two games of the season this past weekend to Bucknell and Lock Haven.
The Red opened its year with a 5-0 loss to Bucknell on the road. Junior midfielder Maddy Conklin led the offensive attack — taking four shots on goal — but she was unable to find the scoresheet. Goaltender Maddie Henry was forced to face 12 shots and stopped seven.
Cornell was outshot, 12-0, in the second half, but the Red put some pressure on the Bison in the second, taking 10 shots to Bucknell’s three. But Cornell was not able to overcome allowing seven penalty corners and four goals in the first half.
This trend continued in the team’s second game of the season, in which it fell 3-1 to Lock Haven. Yet again, Cornell was outshot by the opponent in the first half.
The Bald Eagles scored three goals in the first 20 minutes of the contest, a lead that proved too much for a Cornell team short on scoring to recover from.
“In each of our games, we dug ourselves into holes into the first 20 minutes of the two games that we just weren’t able to get out of,” said interim head coach Steve Simpson.
The Red lost its top three scorers from last season and is still figuring out who will take on the bulk of the offense after the graduation of Krysten Mayers, Katie Carlson and Sam McIlwrick. Conklin was able to get the Red on the board late in the game against Lock Haven, but it was too little, too late for Cornell.
“Even though we still lost on Sunday, I was more pleased with how we played against Lock Haven,” Simpson said. “We were at least able to convert some of our good play into a goal, which was certainly a positive heading into next weekend.”
The team is aware that it must improve on the defensive side of the ball in order to progress offensively and to ultimately garner the results they expected heading into the season.
“We need to get better defensively,” Simpson said. “That is our whole foundation for our season. Our fitness is good, our fight is pretty good but not great. If we can get an improvement in our defending and our fight, I think that we will have a very good chance to get outcomes that we will be happy with.”
Because of the team’s poor defensive play, Henry was tasked with facing 15 shots throughout the weekend but was only able to stop 56 percent of them — a mark far below her save percentage of nearly 80 percent last season.
A bright spot for the Red was the play of its freshmen: Isabel Windham, Avery Smith, Claire Jones and Kate MacGillis were able to get their first taste of collegiate field hockey action this weekend. Simpson said he expects this group of freshmen is capable in aiding the program’s progression.
The Red will attempt to right the ship next weekend when it travels to Rutgers — who beat the Red, 2-1, last season — on Friday afternoon before playing its first home game of the season on Sunday against Rider, who Cornell beat, 3-1, in 2016.