For fans of the men’s lacrosse team, tonight’s game brings back memories of one of the most monumental games in recent Cornell athletic history. Followers of the Red flashback to Memorial Day 2009, when Cornell faced Syracuse in the national championship game of the NCAA tournament to go from leading by three to conclude with a tear-jerking overtime loss, 10-9. Tonight’s game will be a rematch between those two schools when the Red hosts the Orange at 7 p.m. at Schoellkopf Field.
Although most would think that last year’s championship loss would be on the minds of the players as they head into the game tonight, they revealed differently.
“[The 2009 championship game] is not as much of a factor as you’d think. This year’s team is totally different from last year’s,” said sophomore attackman and Ivy League Player of the Week Rob Pannell. “This year’s team is totally different from last year’s … that applies to Syracuse, too.”
This year’s new squad is composed of a largely younger class, with 16 players having graduated last year. In that sense, many of the players who will be facing Syracuse tonight will be unfamiliar with playing this upstate rival in college lacrosse. However, this will hopefully not be a problem for the Red. The team hopes to bring its best game, and will be able to do so by playing as a whole unit.
“We have a great team system,” said senior attackman Christopher Ritchie. “I would say that our greatest strength comes when the team is clicking and everyone is playing well together.”
This team system was exhibited in the Red’s last game against Harvard on Saturday. The Red came out on top, 13-12, after the whole team was able to unite to play some quality Cornell Lacrosse.
Contrasting the team play that Cornell (8-2, 3-1 Ivy) is said to master, Syracuse (8-1, 2-0 Big East) is noted to be more individualistic.
“They have talented individuals with a great settled offense,” Ritchie said.
The Red is recently getting the hang of its offense. To date, its advantage has been more on the opposite end of the field, specifically the settled six-on-six defense.
“We expect that Syracuse is going to bring forth [its] best effort, especially because of our upstate rivalry,” Pannell said. “If we come out and bring our best lacrosse … be smart, make turnovers … we have a chance of winning,”
This will be the last non-Ivy League game for the Red for the remainder of the regular season, and the team hopes to come by a win that will help put it in a good spot to receive a bid to the NCAA tournament.
“We’re looking for a signature 2010 win,” Ritchie said.
For Cornell, these hopes are not ridiculous, as while it is nationally ranked behind Syracuse, 10th to second, the team will have the home advantage against the geographically close rival at Schoellkopf Field.
“We love playing at Schoellkopf; it’s like our sacred ground,” Ritchie said. “Our fan base should be good and all 43 players and four coaches are really pumped.”