Cornell field hockey suffered two losses versus top-25 competition this past weekend. Harvard and the University of Albany each clinched shutout wins over the Red, 2-0, and 5-0, respectively.
Four years have passed since the Red (7-5, 2-2 Ivy League) has reigned victorious over the Crimson (10-3, 4-0). As a revamped team embracing a new coaching philosophy and toting wins against top competitors this season, the team was ready to reverse the unfavorable course of history.
The game on Saturday had a dual-purpose — play quality field hockey and raise money for the Make-a-Wish foundation. The fundraiser was spearheaded by senior midfielder Maddy Conklin, who was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis and became a member of the Make-A-Wish family in 2010.
“She is the heart and energy of our team,” head coach Andy Smith said. “She is an inspirational person in everything she does. We played very hard against Harvard, and I think that the cause had a little bit of something to do with it.”
Despite the bright prospects of the day and evident heart displayed on the field, the inertia of history proved too strong to overcome.
Starting the game against the Crimson, the Red adhered to the season’s strategic trend — enter the field with energy to secure an early advantage. Although Cornell’s drive and vigor were apparent, its efforts were futile — the first half saw offensive domination by the Red, but five shots and four penalty corners failed to translate into goals.
“I feel like we came out and battled Harvard for the first 20 minutes of the game,” Smith said. “We had all the shots, we had all the possession.”
Unlike the Red, the Crimson was able to find the back of the net with more ease, notching the first goal of the day in the eighth minute of the quarter.
The Crimson — clearly energized by their first-quarter goal — brought a revamped offensive drive to the second stanza. The Red’s defense proved to be an adequate bulwark against their advances until the last two minutes of the quarter. Harvard’s Kiley Allen took advantage of a rebounded ball and netted it past senior goalkeeper Maddie Henry for the Crimson’s second goal.
The 2-0 scoring gap established in the first half persisted for the rest of the game. The remaining frames saw staunch back-and-forth defense from both sides, but the Red could not muster enough offensive opportunities to turn the scoreboard in its favor.
“I think for the full 60 minutes we went out there, never gave up, and believed we were in this game,” senior defender Kristen Ferguson said. “We just didn’t execute under pressure and finish on the balls we had.”
The Red tried to learn from their mistakes as it faced off against Albany (10-6, 1-2 America East), but to no avail.
“I had hoped that our execution under pressure would be better against Albany, but unfortunately the same thing let us down,” Smith said. “We made a lot of individual errors without team structure, and it cost us goals.”
The score remained neutral through an uneventful, defense-driven first quarter.
The game took a turn in the sixth minute of the second quarter as Albany scored the first goal of the contest. Just 5 minutes later, the Great Dane’s 1-0 advantage quickly ballooned into a two-goal lead when Dana Bozek clinched her first goal of the day.
Smith decided to insert sophomore goalkeeper Laura Kubit in goal during the third quarter. Despite a stellar performance in the frame with three saves, Kibit failed to stop Bozek, who chipped the ball into the net and extended the scoring gap to a comfortable 3-0 lead.
The Red entered the fourth period hungry and desperate for a comeback. The team, however, struggled to capitalize on its four shots on goal. Meanwhile, Bozek clinched two more goals to cap off scoring for the day.
“We just didn’t take our chances and they did,” Smith said. “We will go into Wednesday’s game with confidence high, knowing that we need to get the first goal.”
Looking to learn from this weekend, the Red will return to Dodson field this Wednesday at 4 p.m. to take on Lehigh.