Coach Graap and the Big Red Women's lacrosse team were ranked 15th in the nation by Lacrosse Magazine and 16th in the presason Coaches Poll. This is how their team is shpaing up for their openeing day this Saturday at Canisus.
Last week I previewed the 2013 Cornell men's lacrosse team. This week I take a look at Jenny Graap's women laxers, who are coming off a solid 11-5 season in 2012, just missing the NCAA tournament field of 16. Cornell and Coach Graap, who is entering her 16th season at the helm of the Big Red, will look to secure the automatic NCAA bid by winning the Ivy league tournament, which Dartmouth has dominated the past couple of years. In fact, Cornell got bounced from the Ivy tournament with a 9-8 loss in the semis to eventual champ Dartmouth last year. Even if they don't win the automatic Ivy berth, their NCAA tournament hopes have been made somewhat easier this season as the NCAA field will expand to 26 teams.
Although the Big Red lost a lot of offense to graduation from last year, the roster is talented and deep. The pre-season rankings agree as Cornell was ranked 15th in the nation by Lacrosse Magazine and 16th in the preseason coaches poll. In 2012 the Big Red averaged over 14 goals per game, however most came from the 9 seniors that will be sorely missed. Coach Graap's team graduated 114 goals and more than 50% of their draw wins, plus their goalie and 3 solid defensemen. Perhaps the most painful loss will be Jessi Steinberg an all-ivy attacker. Steinberg was all Ivy first team her final 3 years, and last season led the team in assists with 21, and tied for most goals with key returner Caroline Salisbury with 44. Steinberg finished her career with the third most career goals in big red history with 136. Salisbury will be counted on to lead the offense, and Coach Graap says Salisbury has the hardest and most accurate shot she has ever coached. The team will look for help on attack from sophomore Lindsay Toppe, and freshman Emily Tripodi from known lacrosse powerhouse West Genesee High School. Tripodi heads a 10 member freshman class which is actually expected to be quite strong.
As for the defense, senior mid fielder Kate Ivory will be welcomed back after an ACL injury prevented her from playing as a junior. As a sophomore Ivory was all-ivy first team and led the league in both ground balls and caused turnovers. She is reportedly feeling good, and ready to play her senior season. Coach Graap is known to build her teams around solid defense and to do that you need a good goalie. Although standout goalie Kyla Dambach graduated, the job looks to be left in the capable hands of senior Courtney Gallagher. She started 3 games as a junior and had a goals against average of 9.7, actually almost a full goal less than Dambach. Sophomore Carly Gniewick started one game as a freshman and will challenge for playing time.
The Ivy League should be strong this season with Dartmouth (11), Penn (12) and Princeton (20) all ranked in Lacrosse Magazine's top 20. Harvard is also a consistent contender and the Big Red lost to a formidable Penn team last season. The Big Red will play a challenging non-league schedule, including matches against traditional powerhouses such as Syracuse, UNC, Penn State and BU.
Their first game is this Saturday at 2 at Canisus and the following Saturday they take on Harvard in their home opener against at Scheollkopf at noon. If the goal tending comes through and they get some people to step up on offense, Coach Graap's team should compete for the Ivy crown.
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