Julia Nagel/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Sophomore forward Ava Laden (No. 13) led the team in scoring this season and figures to play a pivotal role in the team's future.

November 10, 2021

Despite Disappointing Finish, Women’s Soccer Looks Forward to a Bright Future

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Cornell women’s soccer ended its season Saturday with a 2-1 loss against Dartmouth College, giving the Red an overall record of 3-11-2.

Sophomore forward Ava Laden, the Ivy League’s eighth leading scorer, snapped the Red’s four-game scoreless streak with a strike inside the left post. The goal, which came in the 18th minute of the match, was assisted by freshman forward Peyton Nichols.

According to Head Coach Rob Ferguson, Laden and Nichols will be key contributors to the Red’s success in seasons to come. Coach Ferguson is also optimistic about the future of Cornell women’s soccer after standout seasons from three promising freshmen: Reinna Gabriel, Cecily Pokigo and Lily Ellingson. 

“We have these players who aren’t on anyone’s radar that we are pretty excited about,” Ferguson said. “These are players who people will know about.”

Along with Gabriel, Pokigo and Ellingson, Ferguson highlighted the potential of freshmen defender Alex Brotherton. 

“We expect big things from her,” Ferguson said of Brotherton, who played locally at Dryden High School.

Despite finishing second-to-last in the Ancient Eight, Ferguson is glad there has been a return to normalcy, and he’s excited for the future of the program after finally seeing his team in action. 

“It was the first season for 15 of our 30 players, for me and for both of our assistant coaches,” Ferguson said. “Everything was brand new and it was pretty exciting.”

Optimism for the future of the program is not unwarranted — the Red won its first Ivy League contest since 2016, and the team will be returning most of its core players. This returning group includes junior forward Ashley Durik, a 2019 All-Ivy League Honorable Mention who was sidelined for much of this season due to injury. 

“We would’ve preferred to get a few more wins,” Ferguson said. “But in terms of the performances and the steps we’ve made on and off the field, I think we are all very excited about where it’s headed after what’s been a long, difficult period for the program.” 

Cornell has not recorded a winning season since its 9-4-4 campaign in 2015. Since 2015, the Red has finished in the basement of the Ivy League standings three times. The program’s overall record from 2016 to 2021 stands at 15-52-8 with only three conference victories in that time. 

This offseason, Ferguson plans to focus on individual player development, both on and off the field. 

“Primarily, it will be about making the players better within our system, with what we want to do,” Ferguson said. 

After seeing his team compete for a full season for the first time, Ferguson emphasized that although the talent is there, this offseason is an opportunity to channel that talent towards his vision of the program.

In addition to establishing the program’s identity, according to Ferguson, the largest challenge facing the Red this offseason will be developing leaders. Ferguson noticed a lack of on-field leadership throughout this season, and he said he’s hoping to see natural leaders emerge throughout offseason training. 

To achieve this, the Red has started attending leadership training sessions with renowned sports psychologist Prof. Greg Shelley, exercise science and athletic training, Ithaca College, who specializes in leadership in sports. 

After a long-awaited return to normal collegiate soccer, the Red’s low win total does not tell the whole story. Cornell women’s soccer, under the determined leadership of Ferguson, is poised to turn its fortunes around in the coming years.