In just the fourth minute of its game against Princeton, Cornell field hockey conceded an early goal to the Tigers that ultimately amounted to the game-winner, but two “diabolical umpiring decisions” turned a competitive game into a 3-0 walkover.
“Unfortunately for us, we haven’t executed properly, but two diabolical umpiring decisions made the scoreline 3-0,” said head coach Andy Smith. “Princeton is a very good team, they were probably the better team on the balance of today, but I think the 3-0 scoreline was very unfair to us.”
“As I said, two diabolical umpiring decisions went against us today,” Smith continued. “They are outrageous. Appalling.”
Sunday’s disappointing loss added another chapter to a conference rivalry that has not stood in the Red’s (9-7, 3-3 Ivy League) favor. In the past 29 years, Cornell has only notched two victories over the Tigers (12-4, 6-0), with the most recent coming in 2016.
Not only did Princeton earn yet another win over the Red, but in doing so, it clinched a share of the Ivy League title. Meanwhile, Cornell sits at fourth in the Ancient Eight standings with only one game remaining.
Within a few minutes of the first whistle, the Tigers held the early advantage. Princeton’s Sammy Popper gained control of the ball in the Red’s defensive circle. With a quick dribble to the left, she found an opening and fired it past the Red’s senior goaltender Maddie Henry for the Tigers’ first score.
“We knew they would come out and have a fast start,” Smith said. “We expected that, and they scored early. Credit to them — they executed a rebound on a corner very well. It was a great hockey from them, but we were right in it all the way through the first half and most of the way through the second half as well.”
Following the first goal, the game stood at a standstill. The Red struggled to penetrate the Tiger’s defensive zone, and it did not come up with a scoring opportunity until the 20th minute of the game. A penalty corner granted Cornell its first piece of ammunition on offense, but freshman midfielder Caroline Ramsay’s scoring attempt was shut down. The Red would be playing catch-up into the second half with Princeton possessing a one-goal edge.
Cornell reversed the offensive advantage in its favor on the outset of the second half, with two shots on goal, one of which came from a penalty corner attempt. But up against the Tiger’s defense, the Red struggled to capitalize on their opportunities. Cornell only placed one more shot on goal for the rest of the game.
“We didn’t maintain possession of the ball. We had a lot of soft turnovers in the midfield today,” Smith said.
In a burst of offensive energy in the 37th minute of the game, the Tigers forced a midfield turnover into a three-man breakaway. Up against three undefended Tiger players in the disputed play, Henry was left helpless in goal. With a quick fire into the net, Ali McCarthy extended Princeton’s lead.
Later, a fourth-quarter penalty corner gave the Tigers even more breathing room in their 3-0 win.
The validity of those last two goals, however, was brought into question. The umpires ultimately ruled in favor of the Tigers, much to the dismay of the Red.
“It’s two bad decisions, but you have to move on,” Smith said. “I do not usually talk about umpires. But today really was sad. I am not going to tell you that we would have won the game otherwise, but the two decisions that were made for the second and third goals were appalling.”
Two questionable calls by the umpires were not the only force that tipped offensive advantage toward the Tigers. Not only did Princeton have a 14-3 edge in shots on goal, but it also held a 13-3 edge in penalty corners for the day. Limiting the penalty corners the Red grants its opponents has been an ongoing focus for the team.
“We have to be better at defending our own circle,” Smith said. “It is something that we are trying to minimize right now but it is probably something that will not be totally fixed until we go into next season. We have to be smarter when teams are attacking our circle.”
Although the game ended with a three-goal chasm between Cornell and the Tigers, “the game was a lot closer than the scoreline would suggest,” Smith said.
“I am really proud of the way the team played today,” Smith said. “We could not play a lot better than that without scoring goals. We knew what Princeton was going to do, and they’ve outshot everyone all season. They were great, but we are getting there, and we will continue to grow from here.”
The Red will cap off the regular season next weekend with a road game against its final Ivy League opponent — Dartmouth. The showdown will take place on Saturday at 12 p.m.