March 9, 2001

Last Line of Defense

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For the past two years, Justin Cynar would routinely come back to East Hill not knowing his status on the men’s lacrosse team. He was on the roster, but there was constant competition between the goalies. And the decision as to who would start came down to the wire.

“Freshman year, the coaches came to me only five minutes before the starting whistle, and told me that I was going to start. It was nerve-racking,” Cynar said of his first collegiate start against UMass, recalling the pressure he endured. But immediately, the rookie showed an ability to perform in close games, as Cornell won the contest 5-4 behind Cynar’s ten stops.

The following season Cornell lacrosse acquired a junior transfer from Maryland. The netminder spot was up for grabs once again.

“I kept hearing that he was a really good goalie, so I put in the extra work, and I ended up beating him off for the starting position. So it was pretty competitive until the first game last year, too.”

Cynar developed his work ethic, went to the weight room religiously, and dropped 35 pounds before the season opener.

“I had a decent freshman year. It was nothing great, but nothing horrible. It strenghthen my confidence a lot. But after that, I just wanted to get better and better.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Cynar had a dream of a season last year improving his statistics in every category. He lowered his goals against average from 9.01 to 8.22, raised his save percentage from .528 to .669, while leading Cornell to a 10-4 record.

He stopped the NCAA champion Syracuse for the Orange’s only blemish in its near perfect record.

“I never really imagined that that would happen to me in my entire life. Beating the No.1 team in the country was a ridiculous experience.”

“That’s even better than beating my brother [Ken Cynar, goalie for Harvard,12-7]. That’s my best memory at Cornell.”

In order to analyze Cynar’s athletic career thus far, look no farther than Ken. Being two years his senior, Cynar would acquire the positions that his brother vacated, as they both were stays in goal in soccer, hockey and lacrosse.

“He laid out the pathwork, but I brought my own to the position, a little extra, but definitely, people expected me to follow him.”

“We had the lacrosse cage in the backyard, and we’d shoot around. It was always him shooting on me. He didn’t like me to shoot on him. Either [he was afraid I’d score] or he enjoyed hitting me.”

Cynar continued to play soccer and hockey in addition to lacrosse throughout his high school career, garnering awards in all three sports. His hockey team won the Nassau County championship during his senior year, and he went to States in soccer. Cynar was recognized individually as an All-Long Island selection in his final season of high school lacrosse.

When Ken was recruited to man goal at UNH en route to Harvard, Cynar decided to turn his attention to lacrosse as a means of college recruitment.

“I was pretty good at hockey, but when I was fifteen I decided that lacrosse was my ticket to college, and I focused on it.”

League rivals Penn and Cornell pursued the Massapequa native but Cynar eventually was persuaded by the tandem of former head coach Dave Pietramala and then assistant Jeff Tambroni.

Now in his third year at Cornell, the junior Applied Economics and Business Management major has found himself the key ingredient of the Red’s nationally ranked defense.

First year head coach Tambroni has faith that Cynar will continue to win big games for the Red.

“When you you at our defense you look at number of things — number one, our goalie, Justin,” he said. “He’s a great story. He kept us in a lot of games last year, and allowed us to win those games.

“I’m expecting him to improve upon that [this season],” Tambroni added looking at the goals to improve.

Senior tri-captain Bobby Werhane was blunt when talking about Cynar’s ability:”It’s pretty hard to score on Number 36.”

Archived article by Amanda Angel