Women’s Lacrosse Continues to Elevate the Game
Nearing the end of another outstanding season from Cornell’s women’s lacrosse team, and ahead of the first ever Ivy League tournament hosted in Ithaca, Big Red Sports Network sat down with Coach Jenny Graap. The team won the rights to host the tournament after breaking a three-way tie among University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University through a favorable goal differential.
According to Graap, the team is well-balanced among classes with seven seniors, but seven to eight girls in each other class. This is not to say losing the senior class, currently led by captain trio Catie Smith, Catherine Ellis and Kristy Gilbert, will be a hit to the team. While Graap lamented the loss of leadership and talent will be something to recover from, the fact that the team has been able to remain strong over so many years of turnover is a good sign.
As it is common in collegiate sports to focus on the conference, the focus this season has been on the team’s Ivy League matchups. However, the team was granted the chance to play against then #4 University of Southern California this season. In an exciting outcome, the Big Red took that game, in part benefitting from a neutral location. Graap recalls that game being well-played on both sides, exhibiting a high degree of athleticism.
Looking towards this weekend, the team has its first match against Harvard at 7pm on Friday, May 5th. In a unique sequence of events, it will be the second time playing Harvard in a week. The team played, and beat 13-6, Harvard last weekend at home. The significant goal differential in that game is not cause to feel comfortable, Graap and her assistant coaches warned. They expect Harvard to step up its intensity and fix issues they had last weekend. Graap also pointed out that Harvard, the bottom seed heading into the tournament “has nothing to lose and everything to gain” in the Friday qualifier.
In similar fashion, Graap said she is not discouraged by the team’s loss to Princeton two weeks ago. In that game, Cornell lost by one point in a sudden death double overtime. While she admitted it was emotional and tough to lose such a close game, the standings worked out in the end with Cornell winning the hosting bid.
The 2017 season has brought a new challenge to women’s lacrosse with the addition of a 90-second shot clock. Intended to prevent stalling, a common tactic especially at the end of games, the shot clock has made games more exciting yet still poses challenges. Graap commented that administering the rule has been difficult for officials, as the league kept the quantity of officials on the field — three — the same despite the new rule. By requiring the attention of officials, other infractions may go overlooked.
Coach Graap also took some time to comment on this year’s freshman class. She has been pleased to see them learning from the leadership of older girls, and finding unique roles on the team. Freshmen Caroline Allen, Mary Kate Bonanni and Lucy Pedlow have seen the most field time in their debut seasons. The freshmen are evenly spread across the field with Bonanni playing defense, Allen in the midfield and Pedlow making a serious impact using her height as a draw specialist.
While Graap sees this weekend’s Ivy League tournament as an “exceptional” opportunity, an honor and privilege, and a step into “uncharted territory,” she points to the onboard of her two new assistant coaches as the real highlight of the season.
Bill Olin joined the Big Red last summer for his first women’s lacrosse coaching experience. He previously worked with men’s lacrosse at the DIII level at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. A goalie specialist, Graap credits him with helping to develop the team’s goalies and new defensive schemes.
Also joining the team last summer was Margaret Corzel, a former standout player at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Graap credits her with bringing a renewed focus on stick work and skills to the team. She, too, has been involved with rearranging the team’s defensive end.
Overall, she sees the new assistant coaches, both new to DI lacrosse coaching, as bringing new ideas, energy and input while being embraced by the team.
The women’s lacrosse team at Cornell have proven to be one of the most accomplished at Cornell this season, posting an impressive 11-4 record and bringing home the Ivy League tournament for the first time in program history.