Cornell Captures Metro East After Battle With Columbia

The Cornell Wild Roses.This year marks the first time since 2011, that the Lady GG’s of Ottawa left Metro East Regionals without a title, and the coveted lone bid to Nationals. Ottawa was sent home early after a semifinal loss to eventual champion Cornell.

The other semifinal pitted Columbia against Yale. Columbia was already the talk of the tournament after upsetting Ottawa during Saturday pool play and they would handle their business against Yale, earning a spot in the finals with the right to represent the Metro East at the College National Championships on the line.

The wind was definitely a factor on Sunday; some of the weaker teams struggled to finish off points in the upwind endzones. The championship game, however, featured two very fundamentally strong teams, and if the wind was a factor, they certainly didn’t show it. Both teams routinely took care of the disc, and were able to score upwind multiple times; it was clear some of the region’s best players were on display.

Sara Zhao and former Rutgers’ standout Margaret Zientek led the way for Cornell. The Wild Roses also had very steady play from Olivia Olson and Christine Georgakakos. One the other side, Columbia was led by the tremendous throws of Emma Kahle, and the hard work of Rebecca Gibson and Veronica So.

The game started with Cornell finding the upwind endzone for the first score of the game. Columbia would eventually answer after a long turnover filled point. Then, Columbia would quickly capitalize on a Cornell mistake and score the first break of the game, taking a 2-1 lead. Cornell would again turn it over on their next possession, but a big D from Zientek would give them a second chance and Zhao was ready to capitalize, launching a big flick down field and Cornell would tie it up at 2’s. Cornell would then score two more in a row, an upwind goal to Zhao making a great strike cut into the endzone and then they would secure the down winder to take a 4-2 lead.

Columbia didn’t seem rattled, with patient offense they worked tirelessly and were rewarded by scoring their first of three consecutive goals. With Columbia pulling at 4-4 they would eventually stop Cornell short of the goal line. With about 60 yards to go and the wind at their backs, Columbia didn’t seem to concerned about giving Cornell a short field and a potential upwind goal. Instead, Kahle and crew patiently swung the disc back and forth across their own goal line multiple times until they had clear shots through the Cornell wall.

It eventually paid off big as they again took the lead 5-4. On the ensuing point Columbia employed their own zone defense and were able to generate a quick turnover, but they were unable to capitalize. The second chance was all Cornell needed to send the disc down field and to tie it up at 5’s. The Roses would again break back up wind to take a 6-5 lead and Columbia would grind out a long point to tie it up.

Cornell used a timeout before the start of the next point — it clearly paid off. Their cutters seemed refreshed and their throws were crisp, they managed possession well, and played possibly the best point of the game, scoring upwind. On the ensuing point, with the wind at their backs, they knew a stop could mean taking a crucial two point lead into half time.

After a Columbia turn, Zientek would drop an easy pass in the endzone, but a few passes later the fifth year player showed what makes her great, as she made an incredibly athletic play to get the disc back for Cornell, and just for good measure she eventually found herself open in the endzone to catch the goal she knew she should have had a moment earlier.

The soft cap sounded at halftime. After the break, if being down two wasn’t potentially daunting enough, Columbia was going to have to again go upwind to prevent Cornell from running away with the game. They answered the challenge.

A long and floaty throw seemed to hang in the air forever as NYPD’s Sophie Hulbert went up huge over her defender, ripping the disc out of the sky. Hulbert then dished it off, cut towards the endzone, and had to make another athletic grab to secure the upwind goal for Columbia. After a grinding, multi-turn point, Columbia would eventually hit paydirt and tie it up at 8-8.

On the following point, NYPD would get a chance with the disc after a Cornell turnover. Needing to go 70 yards upwind was something they had proven they could do all weekend, but a high swing pass to Kahle, and some strong defensive pressure from Zientek would result in a nasty collision and the disc on the ground. An injury timeout was necessary as both players seemed shaken up, Kahle had to come off because of a bloody nose, and during the stoppage, the hard cap blew. Suddenly it was next point wins, and Cornell had the disc right on the goal line. They punched it in for the 9-8 victory and a bid to the College Championships.

This is the first time since the Regional redraw that a team other than Ottawa has won the Metro East. Cornell has been the bridesmaid for years, and finally got the win.

They say every rose has its thorn. This time, it seems the Roses have their throne.

  1. Matthew Auletta

    Matthew "Pippin" Auletta is a captain for 7 Express, the New York based Mixed team.

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