March 28, 2008

M. Lax Aims for Fifth Straight Ivy Title

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In the corner of men’s lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni’s office sits a trophy that reads “2007 NCAA Lacrosse Semifinalist.” The trophy only tells part of the story, though. Only Duke’s last-second goal separated Cornell from a trip to the NCAA final against Johns Hopkins. That goal also put the end to the careers of five Cornell All-Americans. The Red lost its main goal-scorer, its offensive quarterback, its defensive stalwart and its four-year starting goalie. But like every year, the system remains the same as new faces fill in the roles.
Mitch Belisle ’07 was one of the best long-stick defenders the Red had seen in a while. With Belisle graduated, the duty of main long-stick defender falls on junior Matt Moyer. Moyer established himself as one of the team’s better defenders last year and was an integral part of the Red’s transition game.
With Moyer now stationed in the crease more, and a starting goalie, senior Jake Myers, with little collegiate experience, the team has curbed some of its pressure.
“We’re not pressing out as much as we have in transition, in the ride, just to be a little more consistent and stable in the defensive end,” Tambroni said.
Despite Moyer’s leadership role on defense, the defenders still turn to senior co-captain Danny Nathan as a short-stick defender to provide the main vocal and physical leadership on the defensive end.
And while each hasn’t fallen in perfect step with each other yet, the defenders are more than talented enough, according to Tambroni.
Sophomores Andrew McDonald and Pierce Derkac have emerged as starters and Moyer has pointed to them as key lockdown guys. Moyer also praised the effort of sophomore Max Dorne, who has come off the bench to log valuable minutes for the Red.
Cornell’s midfielders have traditionally been a large part of what fuels the pace and character of the Red’s attack. The good news is that the Red returns co-captains Glynn and junior Max Seibald. Both players made the Tewaaraton Watch List, a list comprised of players that coaches think can win the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to collegiate lacrosse’s best player.
Glynn will again be the Red’s do-everything energy guy, scrapping on the defensive end and creating offense. Seibald, who has received a lot of preseason attention from national publications, brings his rocket shot, transition game and ability to create offense.
The main difference will be the second-line middies. “This year, our second line is certainly a lot less experienced and I don’t think we have quite the balance that we did last year,” Tambroni said. “We’re still rotating a lot of different guys. … We just have to find the right combination and keep our guys fresh.”
The middies who have seen time so far this year are junior Rocco Romero, sophomore Leif Paulson and freshman Shane O’Neill. The senior brothers Mike and Tom Corbolotti have made an impact with 11 combined points so far.
Last year, junior Tommy Schmicker was the mainstay of the face-off “X.” Towards the end of the year, though, Glynn and Seibald came on strong and Glynn started out this year winning face-offs at a torrential pace, grabbing 25-of-27 during one stretch.
Tambroni thought that Glynn’s face-off duties might be taking away from his performance on offense and defense, though. Enter Schmicker.
“Tommy has come on like gang busters and I would say based on his recent performances, he’s just about neck-and-neck with John Glynn,” Tambroni said. “It would only help us if Tommy could take over that role because the fewer face-offs John gets, the more time he has to rest and expend his energy in the offensive and defensive end.”
With three starting attackers gone, this year’s offense has been understandably less explosive.
“Our transition offense hasn’t been as effective this year as it was last year with the loss of graduation,” Tambroni said. “[The three starters] were all very efficient with transition.”
When recognizing slides, rotating the ball well and moving without the ball, though, the attack has shown some explosiveness this year. At times, however, a one-on-one mentality has hindered that ball movement.
Plus, Mitchell’s 47-goal void seems to have been filled by sophomore Ryan Hurley, who is on pace for over 40 goals this year. Tambroni has called Hurley “instant offense.”
“He’s big, tall and lengthy and he catches everything in the crease,” Glynn said at preseason media day.
Junior Chris Finn, who is second on the team in points with 16 is, “aggressive and makes a lot of big plays happen,” Glynn said.
If anyone is to be compared to assist-master Pittard, it’s senior John Espey, second to Glynn with seven assists so far.
“He’s definitely the guy with the eyes,” Glynn said.
Junior Kyle Doctor is “shifty, crafty and very sneaky around the crease,” according to Glynn. Sophomore Chris Ritchie “knows the offense well and is smart with the ball.”
There may have been no bigger hole to fill this year than that of Matt McMonagle ’07, a four-year starter who capped off his career by winning the USILA Goalie of the Year last year. His absence has opened the door for senior Jake Myers. Myers has been spelled at times by freshman Matt Martinez, who is still getting adjusted to the speed of collegiate lacrosse, according to Tambroni.
“Jake is a more athletic goalie and certainly better out of the cage,” Tambroni said. “He’s also a quality stopper in the cage. Matt is much more of your prototypical stopper. He’s probably better in the cage, but not so much out of the cage.”
The inexperience in goalie is another reason Tambroni gave as to why the team has had to play a little more conservatively on defense.
“We’ve probably eliminated some of the risks we took last year knowing we had Matt McMonagle in goal,” Tambroni said. “With his experience, we felt like we could leave him out on an island from time to time. He would usually bail us out.”