On Monday, men’s lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni said this week would be the most important the program has had in recent history.
On Tuesday evening the squad defeated Hobart for the first time in five years.
Tomorrow, the team that began the season swimming in question marks will look to win at least a share of the Ivy crown with a win over perennial powerhouse No. 1 Princeton (8-1, 4-0, Ivy) on Schoellkopf field.
Tambroni is not the only one who viewed the week as landmark. Legendary former coach Richie Moran was in town to deliver a pep talk to the Red.
The Tigers are currently riding a streak of 35 straight wins in League play. Cornell (7-3, 4-0, Ivy) will be looking to preserve its record of 39 consecutive Ivy wins set in the mid-seventies as it battles for a share of the championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Princeton’s last defeat came on East Hill in 1995.
Cornell will need every last ounce of the ‘blue-collar work ethic’ Tambroni has preached tirelessly all season. Only once has the team been out groundballed, coming in a lose to stronghouse Syracuse. The Red looks to build upon its most recent success against Hobart when the team owned the groundball category, picking up 40, nearly double the Statesman’s 21. On the year Cornell has earned 140 more groundballs than its opponents.
In last year’s meting in New Jersey, the Red mounted a fourth quarter rally, but eventually succumbed by a 9-5 count before a crowd of over 4,000.
The Red’s offense, seemingly in flux at the beginning of the season with the graduation of Sean Steinwald ’00, will face its biggest test of the season tomorrow.
The Tigers boost one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. Princeton has proven even less penetrable in Ivy contests where it is allowing just 3.75 goals per game. The Red hopes to fair better than its Ancient Eight counterparts who have been outscored 62-15 by tomorrow’s visitor. The Tigers defensive corps consists entirely of veterans — the same unit for the past two seasons — netminder Trevor Tierney and longsticks Damien David, Scott Farrell and Ryan Mollett.
The Red will counter with its well-balanced offense. Senior tri-captain David Key, who scored his 24th goal of the campaign Tuesday, has been the club’s premiere threat on the attack as of late. He has garnered Ivy League player of the week honors for the last three weeks, a span that included a seven goal, nine point outbreak against Harvard. The effort against the Crimson tied the national mark for goals in a single game. Classmate Drew Schardt and junior Galen Beers have found their names on the scoresheets consistently, as well. Sophomore Michael Egan has been particularly potent in league matchups. Eleven of his fifteen markers have come in Ivy games, including a four goal effort against Yale.
Highly touted rookie Andrew Collins believes that team play will be crucial to the homeside’s ability to execute.
“We need to play together and play as a team and communicate to get the job done,” the freshman noted.
Princeton coach Bill Tierney had high praise for the Red after witnessing its 11-3 dismantling of Hobart.
“They are so well coached and so disciplined. They have a great goalie,” he lauded, adding, “They played Syracuse tougher than we did.”
Tierney said he anticipated a close, defensive struggle, and by the numbers it appears that Cornell has the advantage in that category.
The Red has played in more tight games this season, including four that have had a one-goal differential. The Tigers have yet to be involved in a match where the scoreboard showed a differential less than four.
Once again, the match up at the face-off circle will be integral to Cornell’s success. Junior Addison Sollog has put forth gritty efforts for the Red, but Princeton will counter with a unit that has gained control in nearly 60% of its opportunities from the face-off in Ancient Eight play. The Tiger’s face-off options include freshman Drew Casino who has won a staggering 72% of them.
With an emotion-laden contest, the Red has a tendency to fall prey to careless fouls, but against Princeton it must be especially cautious of illegal actions. The Tigers sport the nation’s second best extra-man offense with 21 goals in 50 opportunities.
“We have to play hard and aggressive, yet limit stupid fouls like pushes from behind,” Collins said, adding that that message has been echoed by the coaching staff all week.
The Cornell defense, the staple that the program has built its reputation on, must answer the call tomorrow. Princeton’s Sean Hartofilis will be a marked man. He has scored at least one goal in his last 13 games. Hartofilis had two goals in the Tigers’ win against Cornell last year.
On the flipside, the Red need to be more effective on the man-up. It can not afford to repeat its 0-5 showing against Hobart.
The action begins at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Schoellkopf field.
Archived article by Gary Schueller