This post has been updated.
Channeling a desire to protect its home turf and armored with a brand new program philosophy under the command of a revamped coaching staff, Cornell earned a hard-fought victory against a top-20 competitor this weekend.
Cornell field hockey stepped onto Dodson Field for their season opener with a renewed passion and confidence on Saturday against Syracuse. After going 5-12 last season, the Red was looking to take advantage of the opportunity born of a new season.
“Our new coach, Andy, is pushing us to be the best team we can be,” senior goalie Maddie Henry said. “His enthusiasm and commitment has really helped us reach a new level of play.”
Debuting this new level of play, the Red turned the tables on history, breaking a 12-year losing streak to the No. 18 seeded Orange with a final 2-1 tally.
The nationally-ranked competition did not faze the Red going into the match, however, and the team entered the game with a simple mindset: to outplay their competition.
“We just felt like if we could outwork them today, that would be enough to shut them down,” head coach Andy Smith said. “Outworking them would be a good process for us, and if the process was good then the result would take care of itself.”
Sophomore forward Claire Jones tipped the game in favor of the Red in the fifth minute. With clean assists from junior midfielder Taylor Gladd and junior forward Grace Royer, she executed a graceful goal on a penalty corner.
The Red refused to settle for a mere 1-0 lead, however. Freshman midfielder Bridget Mahoney, through a cluster of Red and Orange, managed to send the ball to freshman midfielder Caroline Ramsey. With both control and precision, Ramsey flicked the ball to the back of the net, securing a 2-0 advantage going into halftime. These two points ultimately proved adequate for the Red to secure victory.
Whether facing a scoring advantage or deficit, Smith’s mission for the team remains the same.
“We are going to put our best foot forward and play good, solid, attacking hockey,” he said. “If we outwork a team, good things are going to happen, and if we don’t outwork this team, we are going to be in some trouble.”
The Red entered the second half with this philosophy in mind. As seasoned competitors, however, the Orange tried to match their competitive, attacking energy — they would not hand over a victory to the Red so easily. Syracuse burst into the third period with a renewed offensive fire, placing four shots on goal, two of which came from penalty corners.
The Red could only stave off the hungry Orange for so long, and in the fourth minute of the fourth period, Syracuse forward Charlotte de Vries rebounded a saved shot to notch her team’s first and only goal.
Up against a determined defensive force and a goalie touting a .8333 save percentage for the day, the Orange’s effort proved to be too little, too late.
“I think the defense really killed it,” Henry said. “We were a tight-knit unit and were able to limit their opportunities. Coach Andy has revamped our defensive corners, which really helped us limit their goals.”
The Red exited the field with a win under its belt.
“It was a great team performance today — it was a team win,” Smith said. “We won due to our work ethic, heart, resilience and our fast tempo of play. I have been coaching 17 years and I have never been as proud of a team as I was today.”
Henry attributes the team’s success to the team’s “combination of teamwork, great leadership, and effort.”
The Red knows that its win cannot be taken for granted, and that they must continue to fight on the field with the same energy in both practice and competition.
“We are at the very bottom of an upward hill. We have just begun to climb the mountain and today was a good first step — nothing more, nothing less,” Smith said. “We just have to continue to get better. we need to focus on being an even better team tomorrow than we were today.”
The Red will carry this philosophy into their next game against Lock Haven, which will take place at Dodson Field on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.