Schoellkopf Field is cleat-marked once more as the men’s lacrosse team is primed to kick off its 2012 season on Saturday at 1 p.m. away at Hobart. The Red has been busy preparing during the past few weeks, so the squad is excited to begin a new season, according to senior midfielder JJ Gilbane.
“The past couple of weeks we have really been focusing on getting ourselves better [as opposed to] focusing on another opponent,” he said. “Everyone is super excited for the first game. It has been a long time coming from mid-August till now to the get season started.”
Since the matchup against the Hobart Statesmen (0-1, 0-0 ECAC) will be the season-opener for Cornell, the squad has been paying closer attention to perfecting its own game, rather than focusing on its opponent’s style of play, according to senior captain Rob Pannell.
“Early on in the season we are more concentrating on ourselves and what we need to do to be successful this season,” he said. “We are just seeing what we are doing, looking at ourselves and evaluating what we need to do to perform at the level we want to be at. Right now we are more worried about what we are doing, knowing that if we play the way we want to play then we will be successful on game day.”
Hobart and Cornell have a long-standing rivalry — in fact, the longest one in collegiate lacrosse history.
“I’m pretty sure this is the 134th meeting between Hobart and Cornell,” Gilbane said. “It’s an upstate battle and it’s always a good game, always a close game that gets a lot of fans from both sides … It’s a match that been going on for over 130 years [and] it’s got a lot of history. It’s a special game to be a part of.”
Cornell leads the series, 82-47-4, after beating Hobart, 14-9, almost one year ago at Schoellkopf. The Red has been a dominating force against the Statesmen since 2000, when former Cornell head coach and Hobart graduate Jeff Tambroni led the Red to a 10-1 record during his time with the Red. Head coach Ben DeLuca has continued the tradition of Cornell victories, going 1-0 against the Statesmen since taking control of the lacrosse program.
Under DeLuca the men’s lacrosse team has experienced multiple successes, including a 14-3 season record, ninth consecutive Ivy League title and a trip the NCAA quarterfinals. The team has great potential for the upcoming season, especially due to the hard work of the players, according to DeLuca.
“I think that we are looking to play at a really high pace and utilize the depth and athleticism on our roster,” he said. “But what had really characterized our program is our blue collar work ethic and focusing on day to day progress.”
The Red hopes to carry over the high-energy momentum it accrued last season into the game against Hobart, according to its coach, though the roster is not the same as last year. While high-performance senior starters like Pannell, midfielder Roy Lang, defender Max Feely and attackman David Lau are returning for their final season with the Red, the sidelines feature a few new faces.
“We are realizing this is a new season, a new group of young men and a new journey,” DeLuca said.
All of the preparation Cornell has been doing, both on and off the field, should give the squad a solid footing head ing into Saturday’s match.
“If we go out there and give it our best effort, we’ll be fine,” Gilbane said. “Just take it one game at a time and don’t think about the past and just have your eyes on the future. If we go out there and play as hard as we can, I think we’ll be okay.”
While the team is committed to taking the season one game at a time, there are a few goals at the back of everyone’s minds, according to Pannell.
“The ultimate goal is to win a national championship. We have the talent on the team to do that. That’s the ultimate goal, but we certainly have goals leading up to that, [like] being undefeated at home. We take pride playing at home on Schoellkopf, on Georgy’s turf,” he said. “Being undefeated in the Ivy League, winning the Ivy championship, Final Four and ….as a senior class we have the goal to go undefeated. That captures all our goals and I believe we have the talent and experience on this team and the coaching staff to do that. We have high expectations for this team — we know that one of our goals is to not look too far into the future; to take it on a one practice at a time and one game at a time basis.”
Playing Hobart will be a fitting start to the season, given the history of the matchup and the history that the current team is making.
“Playing against Hobart is really special for us,” DeLuca said. “Everyone recognizes the history and rivalry of it — and it’s really special.”
As for the players on the field, everyone is excited to hit the turf, according to Gilbane.
“Everyone is excited to get out there and hopefully bring home the ‘W’” he said.