March 15, 2012

M. LACROSSE | Squad Kicks Off Ivy League Play Against Yale

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Last weekend the Red found itself in the national spotlight, competing against the No. 1-ranked Virginia Cavaliers at the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic in Baltimore, Md. Just one week later, No. 4 Cornell (3-1) looks to get back on track after returning to the Hill with its first defeat of the season — kicking off a three-game spring break campaign. The Red’s 9-8 overtime loss to Virginia (7-0) offered the team a much needed learning curve at this early point in the season, according to senior midfielder J.J. Gilbane.

“It’s still early in or season so we have a lot to work on, both on offense and defense,” he said. “We need to continue to improve our stick work and both on-ball and off-ball defense. [The Virginia] game was a test of where we are and it showed we are right there with the No. 1 team in the country. That game could have gone either way and we are disappointed with the loss — it showed that there are a lot of things that we need to continue to work on through the season.”

Cornell rallied late in the fourth frame, coming back from a three goal deficit to tie the score, 8-8; however, as heartening as that was to see the Red regain some of its lost momentum, reflecting on the mistakes that led to missed opportunities was frustrating, according to senior midfielder Scott Austin.

“It was definitely encouraging to see the team have that comeback, but it was frustrating afterwards seeing film of the game because we saw mistakes that were crucial to the outcome of the game — mistakes like stick-work and defensive positioning,” he said. “It’s encouraging moving forward and learning form out mistakes and progressing with each game and each practice.”

On Saturday, March 17 the Red gears up to begin Ivy League play, hosting Yale (2-2) at home on Schoellkopf Field. Cornell is in search of its tenth consecutive Ivy League title. Coming off a 13-game win streak against the Bulldogs and leading the series 47-22-1, the Red looks to continue the trend on Saturday. The squad has not lost an Ivy opener at home since 1996, when Yale walked away with an 11-10 overtime win. Senior midfielder Roy Lang explained that the team looks to use last weekend’s loss as a spring board heading into league play.

“We lost to Virginia, so [playing Yale] is a big game for us getting back to where we want to be,” he said. “It’s a home game and we have two goals this season — to be undefeated at home and in the Ivy League. So, we are going to take care of business on Saturday.”

The contests between Ivies are quite precarious, according to Gilbane. Since there are only eight teams in the conference, positioning is very important and losing one or two key games could prove to be seriously detrimental to a program’s ranking.

“Ivy League play is different from other games we play,” Gilbane said. “Playing in Ivy games is very intense because you know if you drop one or two games, it could end your season. It’s more intense than other games outside of your Ivy League circle.”

Cornell is the defending champion in the Ivy League, and according to the senior midfielder, it means a lot to the Red to be able to defend its title. Since Ivy play is markedly different compared to many of the other games played during the season, the first game is always a learning curve for new members, according to junior defender Jason Noble.

“The first ivy game of the season is a tough one to get under your belt,” he said. “It’s the first game for all the freshmen … We need to introduce them to the Ivy League system.”

The high intensity required by the competition during the contest will surely be a new experience for many of the freshmen.

“Every Ivy League game is competitive; it doesn’t really matter what records the teams have going into the contest, each and every team will give its best effort,” Austin said. “We will expect [Yale] to be a close, challenging game.”

On a quick turnaround, the Red will face No. 9 Denver on Tuesday, March 20 away at Hofstra’s home field in Hempstead, N.Y. The Pioneers (4-1, 0-1 ECAC Lacrosse) are led by head coach Bill Tierny, a former famed coach for the Princeton Tigers and inductee into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Last year Denver was a standout in the world of collegiate lacrosse, winning the conference tournament before making it all the way through to the NCAA tournament Final Four.

“Denver is coming off a year in which they made the Final Four,” Austin said. “They are an up and coming program since coach Tierny took over. They have one of the top offenses in all of lacrosse. We are going to try to contain them.”

There will be some friendly, family competition on the field we well when the two teams face off, as one of the top midfielders for the Pioneers is Noble’s twin brother, Jeremy. Named to the NCAA All-Tournament team for 2011, Jeremy Noble finished fifth on the team with 34 points and second on the team with 82 ground balls last season. Jason Noble said that he is looking forward to facing off against his brother.

“I’m very excited about it,” he explained. “It will be the first time I’ll play against him. I’ve grown up playing with him; it will be exciting seeing him on the other side of the field.”

Cornell has only competed against Denver once in program history, playing under former head coach Jeff Tambroni on March 18, 2008. The Red earned a landslide victory, 20-7, and has not had the opportunity to try its luck again against the Pioneers until this season.

“We are so excited because we didn’t know if we’d get another Top-10 team; we didn’t know if we’d get to play Denver,” Lang said.

Playing against another top-ranked program provides the Red with a chance to showcase the progress that the team has made since the first game against Binghamton on Feb. 28.

“It’s another good opportunity for our attack to establish ourselves without [injured senior captain Rob Pannell,]” Lang said. “It’s a big opportunity to show that our offense can still produce.”

Key players for the Red in the past few weeks have included freshman attacker Matt Donovan and junior attackers Connor English and Steve Mock — the team’s top scorers in points behind Pannell (16). Cornell has demonstrated a growing depth in talent on both ends of the field — something Noble explained was important for success on game day.

“We need to compete for 60 minutes … and execute more on both sides of the field to be a more successful team all around,” he said.

The Red concludes its spring break campaign with a contest in Philadelphia, Pa. against Penn on Saturday, March 24. The Quakers (1-3) gave Cornell a run for its money last year, forcing an overtime period, where Lang scored the game winning goal to end the contest, 13-12.

“Last year we had a very close game against Penn,” Gilbane said. “They are a very talented team and they had some big wins, so we will be very excited to play Penn in their stadium. … It will take everything we’ve got to get an Ivy League win.”

To the Red’s advantage, the team is able to use spring break as a restorative period, allowing the players to recuperate from the stress of classes and midterms.

“As coach likes to say, we are professional athletes for a week; we don’t need to focus on school. We have all the time to prepare for the next team and being in the hotel and watching our opponents,” Noble explained. “We are looking forward to the spring break trip and to clear our minds and just focus on lacrosse.”

Original Author: Lauren Ritter

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