After dropping its first three games of the season, field hockey was able to secure its first victory of the season Sunday in its home opener against Rider.
The Red began the weekend by losing 1-0 on the road to a heavily favored Rutgers squad. The Scarlet Knights entered the game with a 3-0 record, which included a win over nationally ranked St. Joseph’s.
Cornell did not do itself any favors by allowing 14 penalty corners and 24 shots, while not managing to earn any penalty corners and taking just three shots. Despite the large disparity in the box score, Cornell was able to keep the game close with one of the top teams in the Big Ten until Rutgers was finally able to get on the scoreboard with five minutes left.
Junior goalkeeper Maddie Henry, who had allowed eight goals in the first two games, was able to keep the Rutgers offense at bay, giving the Red an opportunity to complete the upset. Henry stopped 12 shots on the afternoon, but it was still not enough for Cornell.
“Statistically, we didn’t show very much, but actually throughout the course of the game, we did have some good scoring chances, and the attacks that we did have were combinations of players moving the ball with confidence and purpose,” said interim head coach Steve Simpson. “So, I really was not too displeased with the game as a whole for us. I thought that for us, this game was a really important step forward.”
However, two days later, Cornell was able to right the ship in the form of a 3-1 win over Rider University at Dodson Field.
Junior midfielders Kirsten Pienaar and Maddy Conklin combined to give the Red an early 2-0 lead. But the Broncs would not go down without a fight, as midfielder Tess Coorens cut the Cornell lead in half with a goal 54 minutes into the game — the fourth consecutive game in which Coorens has scored a goal.
However, Cornell freshman forward Claire Jones scored the first goal of her career just minutes after Coorens’ goal to help secure the Red’s home opening victory.
Although the Red improved in the penalty corner and shot differential, the Broncs still garnered eight corners to Cornell’s seven and outshot the home team nine to eight. In all four games so far this season, the Red has not taken more shots or penalty corners than its opponent.
“In the first two games of the season, we gave up penalty corners way too easily,” Simpson said. “But this weekend, our individual defending around the circle was really good, and the quality of our opponents caused us to give up some corners. So, it wasn’t the quality of our defense, but rather the excellent play of our opponents.”
Despite the Red’s inability to dominate the box score, they were still able to come away with a win, marking the third consecutive year in which the Red has opened its home slate with a victory.
“There are things that we did well on Sunday and there are still many areas that we need to work on,” Simpson said. “But for our team, a largely young group, to have a win early in our season is really important, so I’m really thankful for that.”
The Red looks to extend its winning streak next weekend when Cornell travels to Burlington to take on Maine and Vermont in the Catamount Classic. Last season, the Red managed to comfortably dispatch both teams in the series.
But despite Cornell’s prior success in New England, Maine will notably enter Friday’s matchup having gone 5-0 with two wins over top 25 teams, potentially complicating the Red’s hopes for a rebound campaign.