If they want to continue on their quest for the Ivy League title, the members of the women’s soccer team will have no room for error this weekend.
After dropping their first Ancient Eight contest in a 1-0 heartbreaker last weekend, the Elis (6-5, 1-1 Ivy) are looking to rebound against Cornell (4-7, 0-2) tomorrow. The Bulldogs must win the last match of their current five-game homestand to prove they can still be a contender for the Ivy League Championship.
“This is one of the teams that beat us last year,” head coach Rudy Meredith said. “They’re good enough to beat us again, especially in our situation right now. We can’t take anybody lightly.”
Although the Big Red finished in the basement of the Ivy League last year, their sole conference win was over the Elis, 3-1, in Ithaca, N.Y. A goal by Sophia Merrifield ’10 kept the Elis in the game at halftime, but Cornell scored twice after the break to cement the victory.
Although the Bulldogs have been playing better this season, they are in a vulnerable position after last weekend’s tough loss to Dartmouth, which brought their recent five-game winning streak to an abrupt end. After an intense battle that lasted 84 minutes, the Big Green scored off a direct kick with 4:14 left on the clock, dealing Yale its first loss since Sept. 16. The Elis had several opportunities to come back, but they failed to put the ball in the back of the net. Yale and Dartmouth currently share the fourth-place spot in the Ancient Eight.
“It was a really frustrating game in the end, so everybody was pretty hard on themselves,” forward Emma Whitfield ’09 said. “We played well. We just didn’t finish.”
The Bulldogs have struggled recently to play consistently for a full 90 minutes, Meredith said. The problem has been evident in the past few games, most of which have come down to the final minutes of play.
“We have been starting off slow and then playing better in the second half,” Meredith said. “We need to figure out how to start the game better. In the middle of the games we’re doing well, but it’s the beginning and end of games that we’re struggling with.”
The already-small squad has been hurt by a number of injuries that have plagued the team recently. After being sidelined for several games, Whitfield returned to the lineup against Quinnipiac, only to see several other teammates get hurt in subsequent games. Defender Jacqueline Gantes ’10 said Leslie Perez ’10, Hayley Zevenbergen ’09 and Lizz Reeves ’11 will all be missing from tomorrow’s lineup, and Eliza Walper ’10 may also be sidelined.
The Big Red have hit some bumps in the road this season as well. Under the leadership of first-year head coach Danielle LaRoche, Cornell lost its first two games of the season before notching an overtime victory over Hartford. Since then, they have had mixed results, dropping five more games — including an overtime defeat at the hands of Bucknell, whom the Elis topped 3-1 in August. Last weekend, the Big Red succumbed to Harvard in their fourth-straight loss. The Bulldogs topped the Crimson 1-0 by in their Ivy opener on Sept. 29.
But there are a few bright spots on Cornell’s horizon. Freshman Lena Russomagno has dominated on offense this season, tallying six goals for the Big Red. Rookie goalkeeper Jodi Palmer has seen a lot of action between the pipes as well, playing every minute in goal this season. She came up with six saves against the Crimson and has 48 overall.
And in a league with such tight competition — every game but one has been decided by a single goal — there are no clear favorites. Meredith said it will be important for his players to focus on their own individual games, not the way the Big Red play tomorrow.
“We don’t need to worry about other teams and other individuals, but our own personal games,” he said. “I know that [Cornell is] going to come with energy and passion. We have to take care of our business as well.”