Regardless of the sport or level of competition, every new season brings with it a refreshing new start. This season was no different for the Cornell men’s lacrosse team, as it is looking to rebound from its first sub-.500 season since 1998.
This season has not started the way the team would have liked it to — the Red has dropped both opening games and is still looking to piece things together. However, the locker room was not filled with panic.
“Obviously two games that didn’t go the way we wanted them to go, but I would say we’ve still got a great group of guys, great group of players and there are signs, some in practice, some when we’re playing, that are very positive,” said senior midfielder and co-captain Ryan Matthews. “I think we can continue to build on our skills and our chemistry and we’ll eventually get there, but we’re definitely improving every day, and we’re looking forward to getting after it this weekend.”
The Red (0-2, 0-0 Ivy) is coming off a weekend where it dropped its first game against Hobart since 2004. The game snapped Cornell’s 12-game winning streak in the rivalry, the longest streak for either team in the historic 137-game rivalry. The game was also the first ever loss for head coach Matt Kerwick against his alma mater and old coaching gig.
“We’re just continuing to work hard, and this group is motivated to do that — we challenged them early this week, and they’ve responded very well,” Kerwick said. “The consistency piece is something we’re really working for right now. Another great opponent coming to us this week, and we have to play from start to finish if we’re going to put ourselves in position in the fourth quarter.”
In its games against Penn State and Hobart, the Red has been doubled up with 20-10 and 16-8 score lines, respectively. Despite allowing both teams to light up the board on more than 15 occasions, the Red defense remains confident.
“At the beginning of the year, we’re talking about focusing on the little details — something as simple as getting in a couple more inches, or turning your head and seeing your man, can result in goals against good teams,” said junior defender and co-captain Jake Pulver. “I think this week we’re really focusing on that and playing team defense and [not] being afraid to support our short sticks and other guys that have tougher matchups.”
Part of the issue for the Red is that it is still trying to fit the pieces together, especially the younger ones — the team has 17 sophomores and 14 freshmen on the team, compared to 18 juniors and seniors combined.
“Every year you get a new group of players — obviously this year we have some younger guys starting and playing with the older guys, so it’s going to take some time to build that chemistry, that flow, but we’re getting there, we’re feeling better every day,” Matthews said.
The Red has faced two formidable opponents, and this weekend will be no different. Albany is 2-1, and is home to goalie KD Colarusso, who leads the nation with 16 saves per game.
The Red dropped last year’s game against Albany, 12-8, and Cornell’s last postseason game came against Albany in the first round of the 2015 NCAA championships, where the Great Danes handed the Red a 19-10 loss. In that bout, then-goalie for Albany took off down the field and went end-to-end for a viral and embarrassing goal against the Red in front of the home crowd.
The team is hoping that this weekend will bring some confidence as it returns to Schoellkopf for the season home opener. Faceoff comes 1 p.m. Sunday in Ithaca.
“We pride ourselves on playing very tough on Schoellkopf, and Albany’s a very resilient group — they’re opportunistic, they scrap, they play hard, so it’s going to be a fast game and a very intense game, but that’s the way we like it on Schoellkopf,” Kerwick said. “We’re very eager to play at home.”