“Go to the net, go to the net, let’s go,” yelled men’s lacrosse junior John Glynn to senior Eric Pittard. As Glynn streaked past Pittard down the field, Pittard noticed that only ten seconds remained in the overtime session. Faced with the prospect of going into a second overtime against Albany with the score knotted at 11, Pittard charged the cage. After drawing a defender he found Glynn, whose defender had slipped, alone in front of the crease.
Glynn buried the shot and a stream of white jerseys came streaking in from the sidelines, celebrating the 12-11 win that put Cornell in its first NCAA final four since 1988.
“You saw one hell of a game out there,” said Albany head coach Scott Marr.
[img_assist|nid=23449|title=Pittard leads Red|desc=Senior Eric Pittard had seven points to lead the Red’s offense.|link=node|align=left|width=100|height=72]
The goal put the final note on a fast paced game that saw Cornell and Albany race up and down the field for nearly 64 minutes. Pittard’s final assist gave him five on the afternoon to compliment two goals for a team-high seven points.
“Today he certainly managed the game very well,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni.
Tambroni praised Pittard’s ability to direct the Red’s offense in a loud atmosphere where it was hard for the coaches on the sideline to communicate with the players.
“When the first midfield came off today, I know Johnny Glynn mentioned, ‘Jeez, you can’t hear anything out there today.’ [With Pittard] we don’t have to rely on that constant dialogue from the sideline, though.”
More often then Glynn, though, Pittard spent a lot of the day creating for senior David Mitchell, who put in four goals. And while Pittard manned the offense from behind the net, Seibald attacked from the point, netting two goals and two helpers. When the game began, however, it looked as if the offense was in for a long afternoon.
“We kind of went into the first half a little tight and we just weren’t playing well,” said senior David Mitchell.
Albany jumped out to a 3-0 lead, controlling possession through the face-off ‘X.’ The Red came back with two goals to close out the quarter, but were still outshot 9-to-6, losing 4-of-5 face-offs. The trend continued in the second quarter, with the Red losing 5-of-7 face-offs. The squad was able to find more opportunities in transition offense — scoring three times on the five Great Dane turnovers in the period. Still, down 6-5 going into the locker room, Cornell knew it needed to change a few things.
“At half time we had to refocus and say ‘Look, let’s have fun and play lacrosse like we know we can,’” Mitchell said.
“Going into half time there were two things we thought we weren’t doing well,” Tambroni said. “One was maintaining possession through our face-off ‘X.’ We didn’t think we were playing with a whole lot of freedom. We thought if we could get more possession time the guys would relax and loosen up a little bit — play the way they were capable of.”
Tambroni’s plan to get that possession time was to put Seibald out at the face-off “X,” thinking Seibald could at least turn the face-off into a loose ball even if he didn’t win it — trusting in his team’s ground-ball ability. After Albany put in a goal to go up by two, his plan paid off. Seibald took over the next three minutes.
“You knew he was in the zone,” Tambroni said. “He wins one [a face-off] goes down and scores then kind of points to himself like he wants to take the next face-off. I’m looking over at coach Georgalas who does our face-offs and he says keep him in again. We keep him in, and we score again. He goes back to the face-off ‘X’ and I say I think we should take him out — [we don’t] and we go in and score another goal. So it’s a good thing they don’t listen to me.”
Seibald got the first goal from just muscling his way past his defender to an open space atop the key where he put the shot in. Then, after grabbing the loose ball on the ensuing face off, he bulldozed down the field before feeding Pittard for the goal. Back at the face-off, Seibald raked the ball into Albany territory where it eventually ended up in the net of Mitchell’s stick for a third goal in only 23 seconds — giving the Red the 8-7 lead.
“That stretch helped us relax and get our confidence back,” Mitchell said.
Albany hung around, though. Cornell stretched its lead to two twice, but the Great Danes tied it up both times. The second two-goal lead looked like it would hold up, however. Up 11-9 with just over five minutes to go, though, Albany netted a goal. Still, the Red effectively slowed down the game, and with just under three minutes left, the middies worked the ball down to the offensive end and began stalling.
With the clock under a minute, the Great Danes threw the kitchen sink at the Red. Goalie Brett Queener raced out of the goal as he had done all afternoon, forcing a turnover, and giving Albany the ball back with under 30 seconds. The attack worked the ball to forward Jordan Levine.
“[My defender] was playing up on me the whole game, trying to smother me,” Levine said. “So I went right, then I stopped and pivoted left. I don’t think he was expecting me and I just put it in low on [McMonagle].”
After Queener turned away an effort from Mitchell, the game went to overtime. Both teams had several good looks at the net, but couldn’t finish — with Albany attacker Frank Resetarits even dropping a pass unmarked in front of the cage. The Great Dane’s best chance, however, came with the clock under a minute as Tyler Endres raced toward the cage after a Cornell turnover. Completely unmarked and with a man-advantage, senior co-captain Mitch Belisle had to choose whether or not to leave his man.
“There was just a little time on the clock left and I knew we had to buckle down,” Seibald said. “I had confidence in my defense at that point. Mitch Belisle was ready for the slide; he looked off my guy and stuck on his guy and I was able to catch up. In the back of my mind I was just thinking of the seniors and keeping them around for another week.”
He caught up and knocked the ball out of Endres net. Cornell picked up the ground ball, and went the other way for the game-winning tally.
“It’s tough to end this way, but we’ve talked about leaving everything on the field … and we did that,” Marr said.
“This group just dug in and handled some very adverse situations today,” Tambroni said. “It was a gutsy performance by both teams today. … I feel so privileged to be able to move on with this group because they’ve done such a good job all year to grow together.”