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Sarah-Jayne Austin / Columbia Daily Spectator

Junior goalkeeper Alexa Conomikes has stepped into a consistent starting role as goalkeeper this season after the departure of Katie Dempsey.

In back-to-back contests on Saturday and Sunday, Columbia field hockey fell in hard-fought games to Cornell and No. 21 University at Albany.

The Lions (5-5, 1-1 Ivy) traveled to Ithaca on Saturday to face the Big Red (5-2, 1-1 Ivy) and lost 0-1 in a heartbreaking double-overtime shoot-out.

While the Light Blue drew 10 penalty corners and fired 15 shots, with 6 on goal, they ultimately fell short in what junior goalkeeper Alexa Conomikes called a “tough way to lose.”

Head coach Caroline Nelson-Nichols echoed that sentiment, saying, “We felt like we played well enough to walk away with the win. … Just wasn’t in our favor that day.”

Senior midfielder Jennifer Trieschman and first-year midfielder Brooke Gasser both attempted a game-high four shots, but no Lion would find the back of the net before the Big Red’s Grace Royer scored the game-winning goal on a penalty stroke in the sixth period.

After the loss, Nichols said she “asked the team to rebound with energy … looking at opportunities to finish in the circle,” a task she thought the group “both did and didn’t do” on Sunday.

In the next day’s matchup against UAlbany (9-3) at the Baker Athletics Complex, the Lions lost 1-3 to the nationally-ranked Great Danes.

Albany entered Sunday’s match with a scorching pace, having won its last seven games before defeating the Lions to extend their streak to eight.

The Great Danes brought intensity to Baker in the first quarter, jumping to an early 1-0 lead in just the fifth minute of play.

The Light Blue struck back quickly, as junior midfielder Kelsey Farkas netted an equalizer in the second quarter to bring the score to 1-1.

Farkas, who was the first Lion to win recognition as the national offensive player of the week from the National Field Hockey Coaches Association, scored Columbia’s only goal of the weekend.

The midfielder, who has also been named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week, has been a difference-maker for the Lions all season. She is currently tied for the team lead in goals scored at five and holds the overall lead in points at 13.

She credited her success to thorough pre-season preparation.

“This spring was a huge moment for me and the entire team. … We took that momentum into the season, and we’ve been seeing a lot of success with the things we’ve been working on,” she said.

Conomikes, who has stepped into a consistent starting role as goalkeeper this season, also dazzled on Sunday, recording seven saves against an Albany offense that Nichols called “skilled, fast, and physical.”

Despite the Light Blue’s efforts, the Great Danes tacked on two more goals, scoring in the second and fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.

The game was hard-fought throughout, however. With five seconds remaining in the third quarter and a chance to tie the game at 2-2, Columbia was awarded a penalty stroke. When Gasser lined up to take the shot, the Lions huddled in anticipation as the Great Danes’ goalkeeper Melissa Nealon slammed her stick against her pads to excite her defense, awaiting Gasser’s ball. Nealon made a diving save, ending the Lions’ chance at a comeback.

“There were some big moments where we could’ve capitalized on certain things to take the lead and to take the momentum of the game, and we just didn’t do that today, and Albany did, so kudos to them. … They won more of the big moments,” Nichols said.

Nonetheless, Columbia put forth a relentless effort.

“Our connections, our possessions, our ability to find each other through pockets … I mean all of it looked very, very good,” Conomikes said.

Nichols emphasized her confidence in the roster, saying, “The team’s playing great right now. I know the ‘win-loss’ isn’t showing that, per se, but … I’m really proud of the effort they’re putting in. We’re just gonna keep playing ‘us,’ and tweak things as we need to here and there for the next opponent.”

The Lions travel to Princeton on Saturday, Oct. 12 for their third Ivy League game. Play begins at 1:00 p.m.

Staff writer Miles Schachner can be contacted at miles.schachner@columbiaspectator.com. Follow him on Twitter @miles_shak.

Field hockey Cornell UAlbany Caroline Nelson-Nichols Kelsey Farkas Alexa Conomikes
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