March 17, 2013

No. 14 Cornell Comes Back on Albany, Stays Undefeated

by Clare Lochary | | Live Blog Replay

Caroline Salisbury led Cornell with three goals and two assists in a 15-13 win over Albany in Baltimore on Sunday.
© Cornell

BALTIMORE — Cornell's motto is "Hard Work." It's the phrase they chant in pregame huddles, and it's the philosophy they take onto the field. Thus far, hard work has yielded the No. 14 Big Red a 6-0 record and most recently, a 15-13 comeback win against a scrappy Albany team.

"We've been saying that [motto] for the four years I've been here, and I'm sure long before that," Cornell senior midfielder Kelly Lang said. "It's something that our program prides ourselves on, just doing the little things right and going hard every day."

The victory over Albany came at the beginning of a three-game road trip, and took place at St. Paul's School for Girls in Brooklandville, Md. The matchup featured seven ties and five lead changes, but the Big Red prevailed thanks to a balanced attack. Four different players scored in a decisive 5-0 run late in the second half, and Cornell picked up its second straight comeback victory in two games. The Big Red upset No. 7 Penn State, 13-12, in double overtime on March 13.

"Coming into this game undefeated, I think we knew we have to stay humble and keep working hard and disciplined," said coach Jenny Graap, who has led Cornell to its first 6-0 start since 2003.

"Frankly, Albany outplayed us for a lot of the game. We found ourselves in a hole and we had to dig out of that hole, and the good news for Cornell is that we are coming back in games against tough teams."

Albany (3-2) struck first, just 16 seconds into the game, on a fast break goal from senior attacker Rachael Burek (3g, 2a). The two teams traded goals throughout the first half, with the Great Danes gaining a 9-8 halftime lead.

"I thought we handled their trap pretty well," Albany coach John Battaglino said. "I thought we could attack from up top, although we're still pretty young up there, and just getting them to make the right reads and to make aggressive cuts."

Great Danes freshman midfielder Rachel Bowles led her team with four goals, three of which came in the first half. In the second period, Cornell junior defender Cat Thomas face-guarded Bowles, limiting her to a single goal on a free position and effectively choking Albany's offense.

The Big Red also dominated the draw, 19-9, led by a career-best 10 draw controls from sophomore midfielder Sarah Hefner, a St. Paul's alum. With those possessions, Cornell was able slow down its attack and work the crease more effectively in the second half.

"Our shot selections weren't very good in the first half. They were high. We needed to take them down low, and take our time on our shots," freshman attacker Emily Tripodi said. Tripodi had one goal and four assists, tying senior attacker Caroline Salisbury (3g, 2a) as points leader for Cornell. Attackers Lindsay Toppe and Rachel Moody were the goal leaders with four each.

"We graduated seven senior starters, and I think that this year we got super dynamic," said Lang, who score one goal. "We've got freshman scoring, and we've got sophomores with hat tricks on a regular basis. It shows that anyone, no matter what age, can compete and get on the field."

Bowles' free position goal at 9:58 gave the Great Danes a 12-10 lead, but then Toppe and junior midfielder Amanda D'Amico (2g, 1a) scored for Cornell on unassisted fast breaks just 23 seconds apart, tying the game at 12-12 at 8:56. The Big Red then reeled off three more goals to build a 15-12 lead by 3:47. Sophomore midfielder Nichole Eamer (2g, 1a) added a final point for Albany to cut the lead to two, but Cornell held out for the win.

Cornell is now one of just five undefeated teams in the nation, along with No. 1 Maryland (9-0), No. 2 Florida (11-0), No. 8 Notre Dame (5-0) and unranked UConn (6-0). The Big Red will face No. 3 North Carolina (5-1) on March 20 and then open Ivy League play at Penn (2-3) on March 24.

"We're going to focus on our communication, and locking our defense down," Tripodi said. "Our shot choices need to improve for UNC, but I think we can do it."

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