Women’s soccer is back in action in the new season and is poised to shake up the Ivy League. In his second year as head coach, Rob Ferguson is looking to turn the tide after 26 consecutive seasons of losing records in conference play.
Last fall, the Red (3-11-2, 1-6 Ivy) secured its first Ivy League win since 2016, a big step in Ferguson’s plan to build a winning program in Ithaca. After spending his first year at the helm focusing on building identity and culture, Ferguson is excited to see how the off-field progress will translate to results.
“We now have a very good idea of what we have and exactly where we were last year,” Ferguson said. “This year we are much more focused in on what we have and how we want to play, and that was the main focus of the off season.”
With returning veteran leaders like junior forward Ava Laden, senior forward Ashley Durik and senior defender Emily St. John, Ferguson believes the Red has the leadership it takes to compete in the Ivy League.
When it comes to players to watch out for, Ferguson was quick to utter Lily Ellingson’s name, a sophomore defender who was sidelined last season due to injury. Another potential star returning from injury is junior defender Mia Gonzalez, who, according to Ferguson, seems to play at a different speed than everyone else on the field.
“She has a level of athleticism most people don’t have,” Ferguson said. “She has the tools to be a star, it will just take her some time to get back into the technical aspect of the game.”
Other players to watch out for include three freshmen who could prove to be difference makers: Tanum Nelson, Mariana Kessinger and Abigail Bishara. Of Bishara, Ferguson praised her ability to bring both athleticism and tactical understanding to the midfield unit.
Lastly, Coach Ferguson highlighted the potential of forward Laken Gallman, a junior transfer from Tampa who scored two goals in her first four games with the Red.
Just six games into the new season, the Red (1-4-1) has already proven itself a fierce competitor against non-conference opponents, losing by just one goal in its first three matches against Canisius (2-2-3), Marist (2-1-3) and Niagara (3-4). It wasn’t until the Red hosted Villanova University (0-3-2), a staple of the historically impressive Big East conference, that it finally earned its first win.
Despite Villanova’s winless record so far, defeating such a well-regarded program from a major conference was crucial for Cornell’s confidence. In what Coach Ferguson described as a battle, the Red executed its game plan to a tee.
“We are very happy with how we’ve played in terms of sticking to our identity: maintaining possession, moving the ball quickly, and manipulating the defense to create chances,” Ferguson said.
The Red followed up the big win with a tie against Albany (2-5-1) and a scoreless loss to Syracuse (7-1). With only two out-of-conference games remaining before Ivy League play kicks off, the Red will travel to Binghamton (2-4-1) on Wednesday, Sept. 14, followed by a home contest versus St. John’s University (3-2-2) at 1 pm on Saturday.