Entering Saturday afternoon’s contest, the Cornell field hockey team, led by reigning Ivy League Player of the Week Hannah Balleza, had won four straight games. The Big Red’s momentum seemed to carry over into the first half against Harvard, as Cornell took control early, not allowing a Crimson shot until the game’s 29th minute.
Following its slow start, Harvard (3-9, 1-3 Ivy) fought back, but Cornell (6-6, 3-1 Ivy) was again able to establish control with three goals in the final frame en route to a 4-0 victory, marking the Crimson’s fourth straight loss at Jordan Field.
“I think they caught us on our heels,” sophomore Noel Painter said. “We weren’t able to respond in time to make a difference in the first half, and, unfortunately, in the game, we weren’t able to come back and counter all the goals that they scored.”
Balleza netted two goals on the day. The junior has now accounted for seven of the Big Red’s last 10 scores.
“She’s a phenomenal player,” Harvard coach Tjerk van Herwaarden said. “You don’t see many players in the Ivy League that can match speed and skills.”
Freshman Taylor Standiford contributed two goals for Cornell as well, her first two of the season. In the game’s 12th minute, Standiford’s opened the scoring, as she took a penalty corner from Balleza and fired a low hard shot past Crimson goalie and co-captain Cynthia Tassopoulos into the left side of the cage.
With the Big Red controlling the pace for most of the opening 25 minutes, Harvard began to assert itself towards the end of the half. Junior Rachael Rosenfeld had a chance on an open goal, but the play was called back due to a foul.
The Crimson drew a few penalty corners in the closing minutes and took the last three shots of the half, but could not convert to knot the score before halftime.
“I think when you see the clock counting down, you start to feel that you have to actually do something,” Painter said. “That’s what we need to do for the entire game, for seventy minutes, and that’s something that we’re working on.”
Harvard was able to withstand the Cornell’s press until midway through the second half, when Balleza was able to put one in the cage after a scramble in front of the home team’s goal.
She added another ten minutes later as senior Kat DiPastina drove down the right side and passed it up from the baseline to Balleza by the right side of the circle. The junior put the visitors up, 3-0, with a shot to the far left side of the cage.
Off a pass from senior midfielder Genevieve Collins, Standiford added a late goal off a shot from the left side of the circle past the diving Tassopoulos.
Down 4-0, the Crimson increased its pressure in the remaining minutes, but still could not slip one past junior goalie Carolyn Horner, who entered the game with the fourth best save percentage in the nation at .822.
Tassopoulos, who had a .776 save percentage coming into the game, good enough for ninth in the nation, finished with four saves. She is now third all time in career saves for Harvard and ten shy of 500 in her four years with the Crimson.
Despite the lopsided score, Harvard outshot the Big Red, 9-8, in the second half to finish with 12 shots to Cornell’s overall 15. Each team also had six penalty corners apiece, but the Crimson was unable to convert, suffering its third shutout of the year.
“On game days, this team is still feeling a little bit hesitant in decision making,” van Herwaarden said. “That allowed Cornell to apply easy pressure on us and then it becomes very difficult to get through.”
According to van Herwaarden, the Big Red was able to transition to defense quickly because of Harvard’s difficulty controlling the ball.
“We didn’t put in enough fight,” van Herwaarden said. “I thought we were pretty evenly matched with a team like Cornell…. This team has been showing incredible stuff in practice, and right now it’s time to translate it toward the field on game days.”
—Staff writer David Mazza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.