The Cornell men’s lacrosse team doesn’t rebuild. It reloads.
Following the graduation of a number of critical players from last year’s Ivy League Championship squad — including Connor Buczek ’15, Jordan Stevens ’15 and Matt Donovan ’15 — head coach Matt Kerwick remains confident that this year’s team will find players to step up and fill the voids left by the talented members of the class of 2015.
“It’s part of being a great program,” Kerwick said about the departure of last year’s seniors. “When you have so many seniors who play so many minutes for us over their careers — three- and four-year guys — it happens … and you expect new guys to step in and do the damage for us.”
Senior midfielder John Edmonds acknowledged the importance of instilling Cornell lacrosse’s key tenets to the younger guys.
“The thing that we stress to those freshmen is work ethic,” Edmonds said. “It’s not necessarily putting up points, it’s working hard.”
Aside from the new faces on the team — the Red has 17 freshmen — Kerwick said he also expects upperclassmen who did not get much play time in previous years to see time this season.
“A couple of older guys who have really been earning their time will really step up,” Kerwick said. “We’ve got some guys who had been waiting in the wings the past couple of years and now it’s their turn.”
Kerwick cited senior midfielder Ryan Mathews as one of such players. Mathews, who transferred to Cornell from Johns Hopkins in his junior year played in just six games last season. Kerwick also looks to sophomore defensemen Scott Flynn and Jake Pulver as potential breakout players on defense.
Joining Flynn and Pulver on the defensive end will be a couple of returning starters from last year’s team, including junior defenseman Marshall Peters. Kerwick praised what he has seen from the team’s defense so far in the preseason, which consisted of games against Marist and Marquette.
“We have a lot of very talented players back there [on defense],” Kerwick said.
Last year’s team ranked second in the league in scoring defense, and with several returning key players, the defense — which Kerwick has always taken pride in — will likely continue last season’s success.
“Our defense is strong right now, we’re hoping to rely on that going forward,” said senior midfielder Matt Schattner, another one of the captains of the squad. He also underscored the importance of transition offense to the team’s success.
“A lot of our offense comes from our defense or our rides,” Edmonds said. “That’s diving for a ground ball, picking it up and creating opportunities not just by dodging.”
Edmonds is one of the team’s returning starters. A captain this year, Edmonds had 21 goals and nine assists last season. With the departure of both of his fellow starting offensive midfielders and two of the three attackmen, Edmonds will likely see an increase in his role on offense. Kerwick called Edmonds “a force” and expects to have more plays run through the senior midfielder.
“John Edmonds has been outstanding all year for us,” Kerwick said. “He’s our leader on the offensive end, so he’s going to be the main guy for us.”
Kerwick stressed how in this season, in contrast to other years, there’s a lot more competition within the team for starting roles, including, perhaps most notably, at the goalie position. Kerwick stated that senior Brennan Donville and Dan Nemirov were still battling over the starting role against Penn State.
“It’s a little bit different for us,” Kerwick said. “It’s not an established group, like in the last few years we’ve had seniors that kind of led the way and [we had] guys that solidified their roles. There’s a lot of competition in practice right now. We have a lot of very talented young men and the depth is helping us right now.”
On the precipice of the season, Kerwick admitted that team is still “piecing it together.”
“It’s going to take a little time,” Kerwick said. “It’s really going to be about developing this group, and preparing for the Ivy League schedule. … We’re still finding our way but I’ve really been impressed with the leadership and the effort and that’s all that we can ask at this time of year.”
The team gets its first chance to take the field for real when Penn State comes to Ithaca tomorrow. The match against the Nittany Lions will also mark the return of Cornell’s former head coach Jeff Tambroni, who won 109 games with the Red across 10 years.
A former teammate of Kerwick’s at Hobart, Tambroni lead Cornell to three NCAA Final Four appearances, before departing for the Nittany Lions in 2010.
Penn State (2-0) enters the game “loaded, full of talented young men” according to Kerwick. The Nittany Lions went 5-9 last season, defeating top opponents like Penn and Marist and losing close matches to Ohio State, Johns Hopkins and Denver, a team that would go on to win the National Championship.
“It’s going to be a scrap from start to finish,” Kerwick said. “At this time of year, it’s just about competing.
The game begins on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Schoellkopf Field.