Lacrosse fans do not have to go far this weekend to witness history; the Cornell men’s lacrosse team travels an hour north to Geneva to take on Hobart to continue Division I’s oldest lacrosse rivalry.
When the teams face off at noon on Saturday, the game will be the 137th all-time meeting between the two, a rivalry that began in 1896. The Statesmen (1-1) were promoted from Division III to Division I in 1995 to protect rivalries against Cornell (0-1) and Syracuse.
This rivalry, however, jeopardized when on April 26, 2008, the Hobart Board of Trustees decided to drop the lacrosse team from Division I to Division III to compete at the same level as the rest of the Hobart varsity teams.
The alumni of the storied program were not about to let this go easy, as an emotional reaction led the board to reverse its decision shortly after — May 1 of the same year. The following night, Cornell played the first night game held at Hobart’s Boswell Field.
“Boswell, much like Schoellkopf, is a special place to play the game, said head coach Matt Kerwick. “You can throw the records out, you can throw the rankings out, this is a game that’s always going to come down to who’s tougher in the fourth quarter.”
When the Red heads to Geneva, it will be the team’s first game at Boswell since that night roughly nine years ago, a night that also marks Kerwick’s last game as head coach for his alma mater.
After graduating from Hobart in 1990, Kerwick coached the team from 2002-08, followed by stints at Jacksonville University and Georgetown University before coming to Ithaca.
“It’s always a huge game no matter who has a good record or who has a bad record, it’s always pretty close,” said senior goalie Christian Knight. “You always want to get one for Coach K, too, it’s just a great feeling.”
The Red have had recent success against the Statesmen. After dropping five consecutive games against them from 1996-2000, Cornell has won 15 of the last 16 meetings and has a commanding 86-47-4 advantage in the all-time series.
Hobart, however, is coming off of its most successful season in recent memory after it landed its first 10-win season since joining Division I with a 10-7 overall record and a 4-2 record in the Northeast conference. The team went on to win the NEC tournament and competed in one game in the NCAA tournament.
“Division I lacrosse is different than what it was even five years ago, if you don’t bring your very best they’re going to grab you,” Kerwick said. “They’re an impressive group, they’re a confident group, so we’re going to have be playing sound defensively and cash in on opportunities on the offensive end — they are a seasoned team.”
The last time these teams met was last year, when the Red squeaked by with a 10-8 victory in West Palm Beach. This year, both teams opened their seasons against No. 11 Penn State — the Nittany Lions defeated the Statesmen 21-15 on Feb. 11, and the Red the next week 20-10. Despite dropping the season opener, Cornell knows that there is still a lot of lacrosse left to play.
“It’s game one, coach has tried to [tell us] not to worry at all — Penn State was a really good opponent and has the highest scoring offense in the league so far,” Knight said. “We’re trying to take it step by step, focus on us, focus on what we can do better. We have a young team — [we’re] trying to bring the guys together.”
The Red is also optimistic about the new class, after three freshmen — Sam Duggan, Connor Fletcher and Jeff Teat — scored their first goals of their collegiate careers against Penn State.
“Right now, [the message] is just to stay positive — I’m sure in high school they’re used to winning, they’re not used to a game like that,” said senior midfielder/defender and co-captain Marshall Peters. “[These guys] are trying to make their marks even though they aren’t getting as many runs. Defensively, offensively, we have some good things and bad things, but we’ll work it out.”
Kerwick added that he is pleased with what he has seen from the freshman class off the playing field.
“It’s a great group in that locker room, I couldn’t be more pleased with how hard they work, how much they care about Cornell lacrosse, about each other, and it’s going to pay dividends,” Kerwick said. “In terms of the young guys meshing with our older leaders, it’s a tremendous group to work with. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for, that these guys believe in what we’re doing, work for each other, and that it will pay off down the stretch.”
The game can be seen online through the Hobart athletics webpage and will also be broadcast on WHCU 870 AM.