April 21, 2012

No. 13 Cornell Overcomes McMullan’s 19 Saves for 17-9 Win

Hat Trick for Fleishhacker

ITHACA, N.Y. – The highest-scoring offense in the Ivy League nearly met its match Saturday afternoon at Schoellkopf Field, as No. 13 Cornell struggled to find a way to solve Yale sophomore goalkeeper Erin McMullan for most of the day. The Bulldog attack also had one of its most efficient days, scoring on nine of 11 shots. But ultimately, Yale turned the ball over 20 times and Cornell turned it over just 10 times. So despite a career-high 19 saves from McMullan, that edge in possession enabled Cornell to come away with a 17-9 win.

Records are incomplete, but the last documented time a Yale goalie made that many saves was when Alison Cole '99 made 20 on Apr. 24, 1999 (also against Cornell).

"Erin was incredible," said Anne Phillips, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. "We stayed in the game because of Erin and our shooting percentage. But we didn't have any composure under Cornell's pressure, and we struggled to clear the ball. The turnovers were what hurt us."

With five turnovers in the first six minutes, the Bulldogs negated their early edge in draw controls (they won the first five). So Cornell started off with a 2-1 lead, with Yale's lone goal coming when senior attacker Caroline Crow drew the attention of the defense and then passed to freshman midfielder Cathryn Avallone in front of the cage at 25:03.

The Bulldogs then scored a pair of quick goals to take what would be their only lead of the day. After a Big Red turnover in the Yale zone, freshman midfielder Christina Doherty got one of her five ground balls for the day and raced up the field to clear. She passed to Crow, who quickly found Rhodes for a goal that tied the game 2-2 at the 22:02 mark.

Yale (5-9, 2-5 Ivy League) went ahead when Avallone got the draw control, and sophomore midfielder Ashley McCormick dodged a pair of defenders to fire her ninth goal of the season low past Cornell keeper Kyla Dambach.

With turnovers continuing to plague the Bulldogs, Cornell scored the next two goals and went up 4-3 on a free position goal by midfielder Lauren Halpern at 9:13.

McMullan made one of her best saves of the day with six minutes left in the half, when attacker Jessi Steinberg fed midfielder Amanda D'Amico right in front but McMullan came out to the edge of the crease to stuff the shot.  After another Yale turnover gave Cornell another offensive possession, McMullan got low to stop a free position shot by midfielder Katie Kirk.

Freshman attacker Kerri Fleishhacker tied the game with a goal off a drive at 2:07. Cornell switched goalies to go with Courtney Gallagher after that, with Dambach having not made a save.

The Big Red got the final offensive possession of the half but struggled to find a shot -- until a holding call away from the ball gave midfielder Sarah Hefner a free position shot that she scored on with six seconds left to put Cornell up 5-4 heading into halftime.

Two quick goals at the start of the second half extended Cornell's lead to 7-4, but right after the second goal sophomore attacker Meghan Murray won the draw to herself (one of five draws on the day for Murray). That enabled Crow to fire in a goal at 26:31, Yale's fifth goal on five shots.

The first save of the day by a Cornell goalie came at a key moment, as Gallagher denied Crow right in front after a pass from McCormick. Two minutes later, the Big Red extended the lead to 8-5 on a goal by Kirk.

Fleishhacker scored again with 16:00 left, but Cornell once again answered quickly. Less than a minute later the Big Red got the lead back to three goals on a tally by D'Amico.

The Bulldogs called timeout looking to regroup -- but after an offside call against Yale, the Big Red raced down the field and got a goal from attacker Caroline Salisbury in transition. Cornell kept the run going with goals from D'Amico and Hefner. Junior attacker Devon Rhodes finally stopped the run by bouncing one in with 5:36 left after spinning off a pair of defenders in the 8-meter arc.

Cornell (9-4, 4-2 Ivy League) got the draw control after that goal, though, and Steinberg scored her 40th of the year off a Salisbury assist to quell any thoughts of a Bulldog comeback. Cornell outscored Yale 5-2 in the final 5:20 to pull away.

"Cornell is a very experienced team, with seven seniors starting," said Phillips. "You could see that those four years together provided an edge, especially on the ride. They created turnovers and were able to score in transition. We were playing defense all day. Our midfielders did a great job, but we couldn't sub any of them out, and fatigue may have become a factor."

Crow scored again for her sixth multiple-goal game in the last seven games, and Fleishhacker scored again for her first career hat trick. Salisbury scored for the Big Red with 22 seconds left for the 17-9 final.

The final score overshadowed the great performance by McMullan, who is still just a month into being the team's starter. She made six saves on 20 shots in her first three games this season, but since taking over as starter she has stopped 48 percent of the shots she has seen and delivered five double-digit save games. Her save percentage in the five Ivy League games she played is .548, best in the league.

"That was a very good offensive team that she stifled," said Phillips. "It has been awesome to see her development over the course of the season. She's very composed, and I can't say enough about how she's grown as a keeper."

Yale concludes its season next Saturday at No. 17 Boston College.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity