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Siergiej develops scoring touch at Cornell

Photo courtesy of Cornell athletics
Cornell back Marisa Siergiej passes the ball during a game against Columbia on Sept. 28, 2013, in Ithaca, N.Y.

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Cornell field hockey coach Donna Hornibrook already viewed Marisa Siergiej as a strong defender, but the sophomore took on another valuable role this season: scoring threat.

Siergiej, a 2012 Penn-Trafford graduate and sophomore defender at Cornell, led the Big Red (10-7, 4-3) in scoring this season with 10 goals and two assists for 22 points, doing the bulk of her damage as the primary shooter on offensive penalty corners.

“You've got this really solid rock in the backfield, but yet you've got someone you can count on to score goals,” Hornibrook said. “I think going forward, that's going to increase. She's been very instrumental and very influential in our offensive penalty corners.”

Most of Siergiej's scoring came in the second half of the season, as she tallied eight of her goals and both of her assists in Cornell's final nine games.

“On a penalty corner, you kind of have to get all the different components right to be successful,” Siergiej said. “I think that takes a little bit of time to perfect, and unfortunately we didn't get that earlier in the season. But now that we have it, it's good. I think the reason we're having success now is we've finally worked (everything) out, especially all the timing.”

The offensive boom in the second half of the season added to Siergiej's already strong reputation in the backfield, which she developed as a freshman on her way to being named to the All-Ivy League second team. Siergiej started 16 of Cornell's 17 games as a freshman and was awarded the team's Class of ‘91 Cup, which was awarded by the senior class to the player with the most promising future.

“We knew she had the ability to definitely compete right from the get-go, so we weren't surprised,” Hornibrook said. “We definitely saw her as being a player we'd be able to build around over time. Obviously, you always have to look to the players around (her) when you bring a freshman in to take some pressure off. She definitely showed maturity. It was pretty clear to us from day one that she had the ability to play right away.”

Siergiej said the experience of playing last season helped her coming into 2013.

“I've just become more solid in the backfield,” she said. “I play with a senior defender, too, and we play well together. I think we've really made the backfield stronger.”

Hornibrook said Siergiej is especially adept at tackling, or taking possession of the ball from the offensive player.

“You rarely see the back of her jersey because she makes a lot of tackles going forward,” Hornibrook said.

“I've been playing for quite a while, so that's just something you gain with experience,” Siergiej said. “I guess one of the characteristics of my play is I play pretty low, even though I'm one of the tallest girls on the team (at 5-foot-10). I play pretty low, and that kind of helps (with) tackling because you're closer to the ball.”

While Siergiej said scoring on penalty corners is exciting, she also likes the responsibility of stopping opposing attackers.

Hornibrook said the sophomore will be one of Cornell's building blocks in the next two seasons as she continues to improve.

“We're trying to rebuild the program and bring us up to hopefully the level of winning an Ivy League championship,” Siergiej said. “I don't think Cornell field hockey has won one yet. That's what we're building towards.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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