GENEVA, N.Y. — “Leave no doubt” reads a graffiti-ridden wall a couple hundred feet from Hobart’s Boswell Field — clearly visible on even the rainiest of days that was Saturday’s affair.
But with a white, spray-painted beckoning call in sight, Cornell men’s lacrosse exited “The Boz” getting doubled up by the Statesmen, 16-8, leaving many questions, as well as plenty of doubt, surrounding the Red program coming off its worst season in nearly 20 years.
“We’ve got to regroup and take a look at this from top to bottom,” said head coach Matt Kerwick. “We’ve got to make some changes in personal, we’ve got to make some changes in practice. And it’s all in front of us now.”
For a team that almost relegated itself to Division III in 2008, Hobart looked polished and poised throughout much of the game’s inception. The Statesmen scored the game’s first three, then Cornell stormed back with three of its own.
After that, it was all Hobart. The team from Geneva took a 7-4 lead into halftime, and added nine more across the third and fourth quarters. Cornell’s young, talented attacking force was held to four a half.
Freshman attack Jeff Teat got Cornell an impressive goal with under a second left in the third quarter. The deficit was still large at that point, but Cornell got a quick goal to start the fourth and it seemed, for a moment, that the Red would surmount a comeback.
Unfortunately for Cornell, that early fourth-quarter goal would be the last the team could muster, even with 14:20 left to play.
“[Hobart] finished the chances when they had them and shot the ball really well.” Kerwick said. “When their hands were free they were putting it in very good spots.”
Four Statesmen recorded a hat trick, two of which added a fourth.
It is senior goalie Christian Knight’s first season back on the field for Cornell since last year’s season-long injury, but Kerwick is not phased by the starter allowing over 15 goals in his first two games.
“We need to do a better job on the defensive side and clean that up,” Kerwick said. “He’s playing with confidence now and he should be. Neither of these two first contests in any way should be put on his shoulders.”
Though a rainy affair — the game was delayed 45 minutes due to inclement weather — Kerwick did not believe it was much of a factor in the loss. Regardless, Cornell lacrosse did not look like the team fans from Ithaca have been accustomed to seeing.
Errant passes were abundant, faceoffs became a non-factor, defense went undisciplined — Cornell was penalized on six different occasions. But at the end of the day, it was the lack of capitalizing on chances that dethroned the Red in Division I’s longest rivalry.
“We just have to do a better job of finishing our chances,” Kerwick said. “When you’re generating good offense it’s not good enough just to get the looks, you have to bury it in the back of the net.”
Part of those troubles stemmed from the five-foot-ten, 212 pound goalie in net for the Statesmen. Senior goalie Jackson Brown has held the starting gig for Hobart since his sophomore year, going toe-to-toe with Cornell three times including Saturday.
In the two career appearances against the Red prior to Saturday, Brown has made double digit saves. That trend continued in 2017, as he went on to make 18 against Cornell, but this was the year he earned the college of under 2,500 students the elusive win.
“Credit to their goalie,” Kerwick said. “I thought he was tremendous in the first half, some highlight saves he had. He’s capable of that, we’ve seen it over the last couple of years.”
As if losing was not disappointing enough, it was Kerwick’s first return to The Boz since his final days as a coach on the Hobart side of the benches.
“I owe so much of my career and opportunities that I’ve been given in the sport to Hobart,” he said. “Of course I wanted to come away with a win and get doubled in a game that should have been a lot closer, but it’s on to Albany now.”
So now where does a team go that was looking for a rebound season after last year’s worst finish since 1998? To the Red’s credit, two games is usually too early to implicate what the season will look like, but getting back in the win column at next weekend’s home opener against Albany will be crucial.
Yet through the poor weather and team performance, there are still bright spots to be seen in Saturday’s performance. Freshman attack Connor Fletcher recorded goals two to four of his career with a hat trick, classmate Jeff Teat added two more, and senior midfield Andrew Keith knotted a hat trick of his own, and sits just one goal below his career high.
Still, the team knows it still has plenty of work to do if it wants to get back into the form Cornell lacrosse is accustomed to. And that all starts Monday.
“The emphasis right now is going to be on finishing plays. It has to be every single teammate committed together and practicing at the highest pace that we can,” Kerwick said. “Nothing can take the place of hard work, so we just have to get back to it Monday.”