In its first conference game of the season, Cornell women’s soccer shocked a strong Columbia team with a 1-0 victory, marking the Red’s first Ivy League win since November 5th, 2016. The Red came into Saturday’s contest riding a seven-game winless streak, but its 1-5-2 record did not tell the full story.
The 2021 season has been defined by the Red’s ability to learn and adapt on the fly. With a new group of players and 18 months without play, Head coach Rob Ferguson has been committed to emerging from the pandemic with a new identity for his program. On Saturday afternoon, after two arduous weeks of non-conference competition, Ferguson’s hopes finally came to fruition against Columbia (5-3-1) as the Red (2-5-2) netted a late goal to cement its statement victory.
The lone goal of the game came off the head of senior midfielder Evanthia Spyredes in the 83rd minute after sophomore Ava Laden drew a foul. Assisted by a deep free kick off the foot of junior midfielder Kendall Patten, Spyredes’ heroic score summoned an eruption of joy from the Red bench.
“The goal was definitely a team goal,” Spyredes said, who remarked on the “perfect” ball that Patten sent from just outside the center circle. As a senior on the team, Spyredes has seen her share of turbulent seasons with the Red, so winning a game was definitely “a sigh of relief,” she said.
The team has seen numerous game-changing injuries already this season — some season-ending and others career-ending, as is the case for fifth-year captain Maddie Hoitink. Sophomores Mia Gonzalez and Jackie Lasseter, as well as Hoitink, are out with torn ACLs, an injury that Spyredes says is every soccer player’s worst nightmare.
Despite the impact that these injuries have had on gameplay and the players themselves, the Red is working to use these hardships as motivation.
“The way those three have handled this is a huge reason why our team has continued to grow and improve even though we are missing such valuable members of the team,” Spyredes said. “Trying to use it as fuel to come out and play harder and play stronger has been a message I have definitely been trying to relay as best I can.”
The challenges that this season has wrought for the team have helped foster a strong sense of unity for the Red, something that is vital for any team to be successful in the long run. This sense of shared responsibility and cohesion is something that Ferguson and the coaching staff have worked to instill this season.
Injuries are a sad inevitability in athletics. It is easy to let that reality hold a team back from success and to impact the team’s morale. But the Red is as determined as ever, not in spite of the setbacks that they have faced, but because of them.
“I have a really good feeling,” Spyredes said. “I am really excited to see how we do in our next game coming off of this monumental win for us. It’s just a huge milestone.”
The Red will face off against the University of Pennsylvania this Saturday in Philadelphia.