Cornell field hockey’s season ramped up this past week, when it hosted three matches, two of which pitted the Red against ranked teams.
Cornell faced the University of Albany (2-4) on Friday, No. 1 Michigan (6-0) on Sunday and No. 12 Syracuse on Wednesday. The Red engaged in three hard-fought matches, but came up just short in all three, losing each game by a single goal.
Starting off the weekend with a match against Albany, Cornell aimed to improve its record to 3-0. Both teams had opportunities to convert early goals in the first half, but they were unable to execute on penalty corners. This was especially apparent for the Red, which missed on three consecutive penalty corner attempts with 12 minutes left in the first quarter.
The difference in the game came with five minutes left in the third quarter, when Albany midfielder Charlotte Triggs flicked a backhand to the top shelf, giving the Great Danes a 1-0 lead over Cornell. This single goal proved to be sufficient for the outing, as the Red was blanked in the final quarter. Cornell struggled to convert on passes in the offensive half — particularly on penalty corners — leading to its eventual shutout.
The Red followed its defeat against Albany with its most anticipated match of the season, a tilt with the 2020 NCAA Tournament Runner-Up atop the polls — Michigan. The Wolverines started off as the aggressors, forcing the Red to play defensively for most of the first half. After scoring just 28 seconds into the first quarter, Michigan maintained the lead until the 9:45 mark, when the Red’s all junior penalty corner trio of Natalie Stone, Bridget Mahoney and Caroline Ramsey struck back, with Ramsey recording the goal to knot the game at 1-1.
However, the Michigan offense did not remain dormant for long, and the Red quickly lost its hold and fell behind 3-1 by halftime. In the second half, the Red managed to find the back of the net off of another penalty shot by Ramsey, her second score of the game. Despite the late resurgence, the Red ultimately fell just one goal short of tying the game.
For head coach Andy Smith, the Michigan contest stands out as a game that the Red should have won.
“We had a game plan and we played the game plan to a T, but in the fourth quarter, we let the reins off,” Smith said. “We created scoring opportunities that we should have taken care of, and quite honestly, we should have beaten Albany and we should have beaten Michigan.”
The Red wrapped up its five-game home stand with a visit from regional rival Syracuse on Wednesday afternoon. Coming off of a close battle with Michigan, the Red was hoping to keep the momentum it gained at the end of that game and build on that against Syracuse.
Instead, it was the Orange that dominated the possession battle throughout the match, placing nine shots on goal in comparison to only two from the Red. Syracuse’s Charlotte de Vries’ goal in the third quarter proved to be the eventual game winner as the Red was unable to bounce back in the second half, failing to record a single shot on goal. With the loss, the team fell to 2-3 on the season.
In response to suffering two shutouts over its past three games, coach Smith discussed some of the offensive woes the team has been experiencing.
“The first thing is, we haven’t scored a field goal all season, we’ve only scored on penalty corners and penalty strokes,” Smith said. “We’re very good with our penalty corners, but we’ve got to make the first one count. We made the first one count against Michigan, and we stayed in the game, but we didn’t make the first one count against Albany, and we didn’t make the first one count against Syracuse, so we have to do that on a more consistent basis.”
Despite the team’s offensive struggles, its defense has been on point, a fact that can be attributed to the stellar play of junior goalie Aerin Park. Park recorded 16 saves over the three games, including a season high of eight against Syracuse.
“She has stood out, and is doing really really well,” Smith said. “I think [Wednesday against Syracuse] shows she’s one of the best goalkeepers around.”
The Red looks to rebound and end its three-game losing streak as it opens up Ivy League play and faces longtime rival Dartmouth in its first road trip of the season on Sunday.