Soccer teams prepare for Cornell

by Josh Koenig | 11/1/12 11:00pm

by Tracy Wang and Tracy Wang / The Dartmouth

The women (12-4, 5-1 Ivy) are first up and will take a six-game win streak into their game against Cornell University at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Although Dartmouth cannot win the Ivy championship outright, a win against the cellar-dwelling Big Red (1-13-1, 0-5-1 Ivy) would guarantee that the Big Green finishes no lower than second. If second-place University of Pennsylvania (9-5-1, 5-1 Ivy) can knock off first-place Princeton University (12-3-1, 6-0 Ivy) and Dartmouth can beat Cornell, then Penn, Princeton and Dartmouth will finish in a three-way tie for first place, sharing the Ivy League title. The conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament would be decided by a coin toss.

While the Penn-Princeton match has important implications on Dartmouth's end of season fate, the team is doing what it can to focus on controlling what it can.

"It's definitely a factor, and everyone's thinking about it, but our team has the ability to put it in the back of our mind and focus on our own game," defender Kelly Bach '16 said. "Afterwards on the bus, that's when we'll look at the computers and see what happened."

The Big Green women have not made the NCAA tournament since 2005 and have not won the Ivy title since 2003, but after a 4-12 season in head coach Theresa Romagnolo's first year in 2011, they are within reach of both goals this season.

"I think that the atmosphere on the team this year has been incredible," Bach said. "Every practice has been really positive and we've been ready to play every game. We haven't had a game where we've come out slow or felt unprepared."

Dartmouth defeated Cornell, 1-0, in Hanover in last season's matchup and has won its last seven against the Big Red. With a dynamic offense led by Emma Brush '13, Chrissy Lozier '14 and Tasha Wilkins '15 and a defense that has allowed more than one goal just once in its last 12 games, the Big Green is a good bet to extend its streak against Cornell. Wilkins in particular has found her form after an injury-plagued season that has seen her miss seven of the team's 16 games. In Dartmouth's last two matches, wins against Columbia University and Harvard University, Wilkins scored all three goals to lead the Big Green to victory. Brush and Lozier are tied for second in the league with seven goals each.

The Big Green men (8-6, 4-1 Ivy) will look to repeat their late-season form from last year, when Dartmouth went undefeated over its final five Ivy games to win its eighth league title. The path to the title is clearer for the Dartmouth men should the Big Green win its final two games against second-place No. 15 Cornell (13-1, 4-1 Ivy) on Saturday and first-place No. 11 Brown University (12-1-2, 4-0-1 Ivy) on Nov. 9, the Big Green will clinch its third Ivy championship in five years. Dartmouth enters the showdown against the Big Red having won three consecutive games and armed with the knowledge that it can defeat Cornell when it matters most. In a late-season matchup last year at Burnham Field, the Big Green defeated the league-leading Big Red, 3-1, to take over first place in the Ivy standings. Though several key players from that game graduated for Dartmouth, the Big Green's recent form suggests that a repeat is possible on Saturday.

"Cornell is a very good team, and their record shows it, but we're as confident as we should be as the reigning Ivy League champions," co-captain Kevin Dzierzawski '13 said. "I think we've played two or three of the top 15 teams in the country this season, so we're not afraid to play anyone."

Dartmouth was scheduled to play the University of New Hampshire in its final non-conference game on Tuesday, but weather concerns due to Hurricane Sandy caused the game to be canceled.

"It would have been good to get 90 minutes of play in, but at the same time, rest always helps," Dzierzawski said. "Honestly, we have some guys who are a little sick, so we would have been without a couple of starters on Tuesday, so we get to recuperate and recharge."

One Big Red player Dartmouth will have to account for is junior forward Daniel Haber, who leads the NCAA with 2.93 points per game. His 17 goals in just 14 games places him in a tie for second in the NCAA behind only Chris Thomas of Elon University, who has scored 21 times this season.

Even though it sounds simple, keeping the Big Red off the scoreboard has been the best way to stop the team this season. Cornell averages 2.57 goals per game and has scored in every game but one this season the team's only loss, a 2-0, affair against Brown in Providence, R.I.