Eldon Lindsay / Courtesy of Cornell Athletics

The Red beat Siena on Monday after downing Iona on Friday.

September 3, 2019

‘High Performance Mentality’ Pays Early Dividends for Women’s Soccer, Which Doubled Its 2018 Win Total With 2-0 Start

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A year ago — Sept. 3, 2018 — Cornell women’s soccer faced Siena in Loudonville, N.Y., where the team suffered its second loss of the season — starting a winless streak that continued throughout the painful fall.

364 days later at Berman Field — against Siena — the Red rebounded in impressive fashion to improve to 2-0, already doubling its 2018 win total. After beating Iona, 3-1, in the season opener on Friday, Cornell earned a statement 1-0 shutout victory on Monday over the team that handed it the second of 14 straight games without a win.

A shutout against a team Cornell lost to last year is a “good sign for a group like this that’s so young we’re starting four or five freshmen every night,” head coach Dwight Hornibrook said.

While the Red outshot Siena 7-4 in the first half on Labor Day, the game remained scoreless. Then, with less than a minute left, junior Naomi Jaffe sent an arching cross that sunk its way into the back of the next, bringing Cornell to halftime with a 1-0 lead that held for the remaining 45 minutes.

Jaffe’s first goal of 2019 resembled her first tally of 2018 — in last year’s season opener — where her long shot got past the traffic of St. Bonaventure’s defense to find the net. The goal sent the game to overtime, where Cornell emerged victorious for its only win of the 1-13-1 season.

Paired with the Red’s promising nine-member freshman class and newfound attack-first outlook, the team’s “high performance mentality” — a term Hornibrook has coined — identifies a “set of lifestyle habits that will allow us to show up to win soccer games,” the coach said.

These habits create a holistic approach for the team on and off the field — ranging from eating, resting and studying to balancing social habits and training regimens. Hornibrook has emphasized the importance of quality as the primary factor contributing to the high performance mentality.

“Everything we do in practice, whether it’s technical, tactical, physical, mental — it’s a high level of concentration, a high level of commitment to detail, a high level of commitment to competing.”

After two non-conference games — Cornell kicks off Ivy League play Sept. 28, hoping to improve upon its 0-7 record and last-place finish in the Ancient Eight last year — the competitive approach seems to be working. The Red scored four goals over Labor Day weekend and picked up two wins. Cornell’s three goals in the season-opening win over Iona were more than the Red ever tallied in a single game last season.
“Every game brings a set of problems that you have to solve as a unit and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Hornibrook said. “It’s everybody for everybody else and that’s what makes it work.”

With the problem-solving mentality, time will tell how the rest of the 2019 season shapes up given Cornell’s 2-0 start.

“The kids who came back [were] very frustrated by the results of the last couple of seasons so they wanted to make it better,” Hornibrook said. “There’s a collective hunger for everybody to succeed.”

Winners of two straight at Berman Field to open the 2019 season, Cornell heads to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, to take on Bucknell on Sept. 6 before returning home Sept. 8 to battle St. Bonaventure.