March 14, 2011

No. 2 Cavaliers Mount Late Comeback to Beat Men’s Lacrosse

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Despite perhaps its best defensive performance of the season, the men’s lacrosse team was unable to contain national powerhouse Virginia — losing the Saturday afternoon matchup, 11-9.

With the loss, Cornell’s record drops to 3-2, while Virginia improves, 6-1, in the season thus far.

The core of the Cornell defense – senior long stick midfielder Max Feeley, sophomore defenseman Mike Bronzino, sophomore defenseman Jason Noble and sophomore goalie AJ Fiore – held the UVA offense to only four points in the first half. The No. 2 Cavaliers came into the game with one of the best attack units in the nation with Shamel Bratton, Steele Stanwick, and Chris Bockley averaging almost 10 points per game. On this day however, the Red held the group to only three scores.

The game — played at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium — was part of the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic and produced an exciting finish for the more than 17,000 die-hard Maryland lacrosse fans that were in attendance.

“It was great for some of our younger guys who haven’t played on that stage before to get that sort of exposure,” said junior attackman Rob Pannell. “I think for the freshman that travelled it was a great experience.”

“I think we did a good job of just playing the game,” said senior midfielder Jack Dudley of the team’s focus. “[The younger guys] didn’t seem to be bothered by the hype around the Face-Off Classic.”

Cornell took control of the game right at the opening whistle with Pannell scoring a quick acrobatic goal from behind the cage for the first score of the contest. The Red would go on to maintain that lead until the end of the third quarter, when the Cavaliers were able to mount a comeback and eventually secure the lead in the fourth quarter with an unassisted goal from Rhamel Bratton.

“They were just able to capitalize on opportunities,” Pannell said. “They’re a great team in transition, very athletic … to their credit, they did a great job coming back.”

A number of Red penalties, which weakened the team’s overall strength, also played an unfortunate role for Cornell’s chances.

“Their extra man [play] is one of the best in the country,” Dudley said regarding the Cavaliers. “We just have to be more disciplined down the stretch.”

Although the Red could not come away with the win, Cornell’s defensive performance was commendable.

“I think the defense played great,” Pannell said. “It was nice having [senior Max] Feely back,” he added, referencing the long stick midfielder’s return from injury. “I could tell [the defense] really executed their game plan well … they really played a great game.”

“The defense played one of its best games to date,” Dudley said. “Max Feely showed why he’s one of the best defensemen in the country.”

Pannell led all scorers with four goals, four points and 12 shots on goal. Freshman midfielder Mike O’Neil and junior midfielder Roy Lang each added two goals as well.

With matchups against No. 6 Stony Brook and No. 1 Syracuse looming on the schedule for the coming month, the team knows it has a lot of work to do if the Red hopes to upset some of college lacrosse’s more elite teams.

“We’ve got to look at ourselves and see what we need to do to get better,” Pannell affirmed.

“Hopefully we draw off of experience in these games … and learn from what we did wrong,” Dudley said.

Although there are a lot of positives to be taken from the game against Virginia, the goal for the Red is still to win every game it plays, despite the opponent.

“[This game] is certainly a step in right direction,” Pannell said. “I think a lot of people are patting us on the back about it … but we’re not playing to play close. We want to win games.”

The Red will next take the field on Saturday when it travels to New Haven, Conn., to begin Ivy League play against the Yale Bulldogs.

Original Author: Holden Steinhauer