On Saturday, the men’s club lacrosse team dominated the previously-undefeated Cortland team, 10-7, earning a spot at the National College Lacrosse League National tournament. The team is currently ranked No. 13 in the nation, sporting a 9-2 record.
“We generally have one or two games a weekend,” said senior captain Joe Benci. “This is definitely the best season we’ve had in years.”
Cornell is a member of the Division I Empire East Conference, and generally competes against other teams in New York State and the northeast. This past weekend’s game against Cortland was the second time that the two teams faced each other this year.
“We played them before and were winning the entire game … but they slowly crept back and went up with a minute and a half left,” Benci said. “It was a really disappointing loss, and we thought we wouldn’t be able to qualify [for nationals] after it.”
With a 5-3 win over Syracuse and 12-5 victory against Albany, Cornell was able to secure a spot in the playoffs.
In their second meeting this season, Cornell faced off against Cortland in a game which would determine which team would qualify for nationals and earn a first place finish in the Empire East conference. The team went into the match aware of the challenge it was facing, but determined to finish the game with a different outcome.
“Cortland’s seniors have only lost two games in their entire career,” Benci said. “Our win against them was number three. It was the first time we’ve beaten them in the regular season in five or six years, and we won pretty decisively. It was a huge win.”
“We really took it to Cortland with a revenge mentality,” said senior Colin Shevlin. “We went up, 4-1, at the end of the first half and we didn’t let up against them the entire game. It was definitely the best game we’ve played since I’ve been at Cornell.”
This Saturday Cornell faces Delaware in the first round of the national championship.
“They’re the higher seed, and a pretty good team,” Benci said. “They’ve beaten some of the top teams, so it’ll be a good challenge.”
“We do a good job of playing up to teams,” said senior Rob Solomon. “It’ll be stiff competition this weekend, but we’re expecting a good game on Saturday.”
Twenty-five members of the team will travel down to Annapolis, Md. this weekend for the game. Members of the team are excited for the chance to compete at such a high level, according to Tom Hayford, grad.
“We’ve only lost twice this entire season, and every loss we’ve avenged” he said. “I can’t think of a better way to end a season and a career.”
The team’s success comes in part from a new standard of commitment and play that Benci has demanded from the team. As captain and president, Benci is not only in charge of organizing and coaching the team, but also is competing as a player. The team’s success this year stems from his changes in expectations for all of the players.
“Joe has set a new standard … This year we had more expectations and more accountability, which fosters more of a commitment to the team and its success,” Solomon said. “We all care more about the team, and it results in trying harder in games…there’s that extra effort to make the team that much better.”
“Our team the past three years should have been awesome, but we’d go out there and just make mental errors,” Shevlin said. “The seniors have really done a good job to get the entire team focused this year.”
Hopes are high that this year will set a new standard for the team that will continue into the future.
“We’ve got a talented group of younger guys that will keep it going,” Benci said. “Once you’ve got the commitment level started, you can keep upping expectations and keep getting better.”