It was a common sight. A ball thrown just a little too high or just a little too far to the left. An easy ground ball that just did not want to go into the stick of a Cornell player. As the turnovers accumulated so did Crimson goals and the Red fell to Harvard, 12-8, in Ithaca Saturday.
After the teams combined to score just seven goals in the first half, the offenses found their rhythm in the third quarter. Harvard scored the first two in the period, but a trio of Cornell goals over a timespan of a little over two minutes pushed the Red into the lead.
Despite several opportunities to add to its advantage in the third period, Cornell was unable to hang on to the lead for long. Turnovers doomed the Red, allowing Harvard to score twice more in the third and another two through the first nine minutes of the fourth.
“I thought we turned it over on simple exchanges,” said head coach Matt Kerwick. “It’s one thing when we turn it over trying to force a crease or feeding your teammate inside. We don’t mind those. But when you have a turnover that is simple on the exchange or on the perimeter, that can hurt you in a tight game.”
In that stretch of goals in the third period, sophomore midfielder Jack Bolen had the first goal, and freshman attackman Ryan Bray added his second of the game, both of the underclassmen’s goals coming on unsettled possessions. Junior face-off specialist Domenic Massimilian added one more just seven seconds after Bray’s goal, giving Cornell its first lead of the game.
Kerwick praised the effort he saw out of his team on fastbreak and unsettled situations.
“We were able to push that 6-on-5 or that 5-on-4 man-advantage,” Kerwick said. “The guys are staying in the play and are looking to try to get that one more pass and put it in the back of the net.”
Critical to the third quarter run was the face-off play from Massimilian, who won 20 of 24 face-offs on the day and scooped up 17 ground balls. His goal was the third of his career.
“Dom was outstanding,” Kerwick said. “That’s one of the best games I’ve seen him play here at Cornell, and he’s had some good ones.”
Massimilian currently ranks in the top 10 in face-off win percentage and ranks second ground balls per game in the nation.
“Dom’s been big for us all year,” said senior midfielder John Edmonds. “Fortunately for us, our mindset is to go out, score and Dom will get it back.”
Massimilian did that all game, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough for the Red to pull off the victory over its Ivy League rival.
Following Cornell’s flurry of goals, Harvard scored four unanswered to give the Crimson a 10-7 lead with 10:06 left in the game.
Junior midfielder Andrew Keith broke the Crimson scoring streak with a bouncing shot that found the top of the net, cutting the Harvard lead to two with 4:11 to play. But the Crimson took advantage of the Red’s sloppy play and ten-man ride and netted two more goals to finish off the victory, dropping Cornell to 1-3 in Ivy League play.
“Overall, I was really pleased with the effort,” Kerwick said. “I thought the guys played as hard as they could. Our execution wasn’t great at times.”
Harvard got on the board first after Cornell tried to double team Harvard’s Cheek Morgan. Morgan passed out of the double team, finding an open Will Walker who scored the first goal of the game.
The Red tied it up four minutes later off of Edmonds’ 11th goal of the season.
After a stretch of back-and-forth play with men from both teams making the trip up and down the field multiple times, the Crimson finally ended the track meet when Walker gave Harvard back the lead on an unsettled situation coming.
Kerwick has stressed the importance of fastbreak goals all season and said the team has made strides in scoring more goals in these unsettled situations.
“We’ve been pushing transition in practice and we’ve been trying to generate more opportunities there,” Kerwick said. “I think the guys are getting more comfortable with it.”
Cornell would add one more goal in the half, going into the break down by one.
The Red tied up the score in the third period when Edmonds found Bray on the crease for a smooth one-timer goal.
“Clark [Peterson] dragged his guy down,” Edmonds said of the play. “I had the ball in the corner and I saw Ryan out of the corner of my eye and he had his stick up and I zinged it to him and he put it in.”
Harvard responded with two goals, and again the Red faced a two-goal deficit.
About a minute and a half later, Cornell took the lead off of the trio of goals, but it would not be enough to overcome the turnovers.
Following Saturday’s loss, Syracuse and its top national 10 ranking loom on the horizon for Cornell. A win against the perennial powerhouse could be huge in the Red’s quest to earn its spot back in the national rankings.
“Monday, we don’t have much time to dwell on [today’s loss] or spend much time reviewing it,” Kerwick said. “As I told the team in the locker room, that may be the best medicine right now, just turn right around and play one of the best teams in the country.”