March 14, 2007

M. Lax Emerges as NCAA Title Contender

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The Beatles once sang about a “long and winding road that leads to your door.” The men’s lacrosse team is on just such a road this season, one that it hopes will lead to a chance to compete for the NCAA championship. The team believes that it has the talent to succeed, with four pre-season All-Americans and three players on the Tewaaraton watch list.

“Our goal as a team is a national championship, but we do realize that it best to set smaller, attainable goals throughout the season,” said senior David Mitchell.

Last season, Cornell finished 11-3, with a 5-1 record in the Ivy League. Despite its regular season success, the Red was upset at Schoellkopf Field by then-No. 10 UMass, 10-9, in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This season, Cornell returns many of its key players from last season and has added some new contributors as well.

Seniors Mitchell, Eric Pittard and Henry Bartlett have started all four games so far for the Red. Mitchell had a breakout season last year, leading the team with 43 goals. He was named first-team All-Ivy and honorable-mention All-American for his efforts. Already this season, the attackman has 10 goals, tying him for the team lead.

“David Mitchell gets a lot of attention, but this is more of a team-oriented offense,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “Statistically, on any given day, we will call upon any one of our guys, which is a good thing if guys are making plays.”

Pittard has taken an atypical path to his role on Cornell’s attack. Pittard started his collegiate career at Virginia, but transferred to Cornell after seeing limited playing time for the Cavaliers. Last season, his first with the Red, Pittard handed out a team-high 24 assists, and his 1.71 assists per game ranked 13th in the nation. This year, Pittard has recorded a team-high 16 points, and is tied with Mitchell for the team lead with 10 goals.

While Mitchell and Pittard both produced heralded junior campaigns, Bartlett has only begun to make his mark this season. After recording only two goals last year, the senior already has seven scores in four games, including a hat trick in a 19-4 win over Binghamton on Feb. 24.

“When you plug in a guy like Henry Bartlett, he makes everyone around him better,” Tambroni said.

At the midfield position, Cornell has been bolstered by the return of sophomore Max Seibald, the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Last season, Seibald notched 19 goals and 14 assists and was named second-team All-American and first-team All-Ivy. Seibald has picked up this season right where he left off, recording four goals and two assists this season.

The midfield position has also been strengthened by the emergence of junior John Glynn, who missed all of 2006 due to injury. Glynn opened the season with a four-goal, two-assist performance against Binghamton, and has continued his solid play, recording seven points and eight assists on the year.

Senior Brian Clayton has also emerged as an offensive threat this season. After notching nine points in 2006, the midfielder has four goals and three assists this season.

At the face off “X,” sophomore Tommy Schmicker has given the Red a boost this season. In four games, the midfielder has won 55-of-87 face-offs for a .632 percentage. Schmicker also scored his first two goals of his career in a 16-6 win over Colgate on Feb. 27.

At the long-stick midfield position, senior Ethan Vedder started all 14 games for the Red last season. His 41 ground balls ranked second on the team, and helped him earn an All-Ivy honorable mention selection. He has recorded 11 ground balls so far this year.

When opponents try to score on Cornell, they run into a defense anchored by senior co-captain Mitch Belisle, who usually defends the opposing team’s best offensive threat. Last year, Belisle had 41 ground balls and was named first-team All-Ivy and honorable mention All-American.

Sophomore Matt Moyer has started all four games this year for the Red, playing both defense and midfield. He ranks second on the team with 17 ground balls.

“Moyer has grown into more of a leadership role,” Tambroni said. “He has been playing a close defense, he has played some long-stick midfield and he plays on the wings of face offs.”

Junior Danny Nathan has made three starts so far this year after starting 13 games last season. Sophomore Nick Gradinger has made one start this year after seeing action in 10 contests last season. He has four ground balls on the young season.

Between the pipes, Cornell returns senior co-captain Matt McMonagle, who started all 14 games last year. In 2006, he posted a 5.73 goals against average, good for second in the country, and a .625 save percentage, ranked third in the nation. He made double-digit saves in eight games, and was named second-team All-American and first-team All-Ivy. He has continued his solid play by posting a 5.67 goals against average and a .633 save percentage in 2007, including an eight-save performance to preserve a 7-4 win over Army on Saturday.

Backing up McMonagle is junior Jake Myers, who is currently in his first season with Cornell after transferring from Syracuse. This season, he played seven minutes during the win over Binghamton, and stopped both shots he faced.

“Jake has done a decent job. … Any time you transfer from one school to another, it is a difficult process,” Tambroni said. “You have to acclimate yourself to school and to a new program.”

2007 Season
Cornell (4-0) has already gotten off to a strong start this season, winning all four of its games. The Red blew out Binghamton and Colgate at home in its first two matches before defeating Notre Dame and Army, respectively, over the past two weekends. Pittard, Mitchell and Glynn lead the team with 16, 15 and 14 points, respectively.